Look at those cheeks! Could this guy blow a shofar, or what? He was amazing.
Stirring up the old memories made me want to hear that song again, and so I found it on Youtube. I found many versions of it, including one in which Dizzy explained how he came to write it. That one is called "3 Nights in Tunisia" and is worth looking up if you're interested. There is another in which he does a duet with an amazing Cuban trumpeter -- in Cuba! The one closest to what we were listening to on the Bagel Shop jukebox in 1958 can be found here:
If I knew how to embed these videos, I would, but I am so pedestrian at this, I can only pass on the link.
A warning -- this is Bebop, a style of jazz that may clash with what passes as jazz now. Its practitioners included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker ("Bird") and Lester Young ("Prez"), among many other greats. To us, it was exciting music that fed the mind and made us stretch intellectually. The musicians who played it were innovators of a high order -- geniuses -- doing things with rhythm and chord structure and melodic variations that had never been done before. Hearing it made us feel the possibilities were limitless, somehow. It fired up all kinds of creative ideas.
I was coming home from work one late sunny afternoon in the spring of 1964, enjoying myself, walking along lower Pacific Avenue in San Francisco -- the area that used to be known as the Barbary Coast at the turn of the twentieth century, but by 1964 was all interior decorators and upscale lawyers. Pacific is one street back from Broadway, where the Jazz clubs were. Just as I was walking along, I saw a familiar figure up ahead -- a pleasant looking man in an African cap a little like a Bukhuran kippah. I recognized him immediately and he gave me a broad smile, bowing slightly and tipping his hat. It was an enormous blessing and he absolutely made my day. That was my one and only Dizzy Gillespie sighting. I will never forget it. I could not wait to tell my jazz musician husband about it. He was as excited as I was.
Dizzy Gillespie was not only a genius, he was also a mensch.
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