Stephanie Zacharek reviews 'Girl in Landscape' by Jonathan Lethem.
recorded between 1957 and 1964, the anthology “Dizzy Talkin’” features Dizzy Gillespie’s experiments with what Verve calls “exotic rhythms.” They weren’t so exotic to Dizzy, who played the congas himself when he couldn’t afford to hire the likes of Chano Pozo or Candido to accompany his Afro-Cuban numbers, and who proclaimed in his autobiography, “I always had a feeling for Latin music.” It was a feeling that developed after he met Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauza in 1937 and that bore fruit as early as 1941, when the trumpeter wrote the jazz classic “Night in Tunisia.” A few years later he recorded the Afro-Cuban “Manteca” and George Russell’s “Cubano Be-Cubano Bop,” with its dialect chanting by Pozo. No one did more than Dizzy Gillespie to bring new rhythms into modern jazz.
He played them, and he played with them. I once heard Gillespie’s last pianist, Panamian Danilo Perez, ask why Gillespie didn’t bother to learn the “proper” ways of playing various Latin rhythms. But Gillespie had his own agenda. Pozo’s chanting was serious, virtually sacerdotal. Gillespie does a parody of those chants in his own invented dialect to introduce “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac,” ending the chant with a barely audible “Your mama.” “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” ends with Gillespie’s famous proclamation, “Old Cadillacs never die; the finance company just fade ‘em away.” In the middle he plays the spiritual as a stomping blues. Dizzy was as interested in conflating genres as in finding new paths, and he never abandoned the blues or the swinging four-four rhythms he grew up with.
On “Dizzy Talkin’,” he rips through the early ’60s soul hit “Walk on the Wild Side” — nothing too exotic there — and plays several pieces written for him by Lalo Schifrin, as well as two of his own pieces and a pair by bebop pianist Mal Waldron. Dizzy himself never sounded better than in the ’50s and early ’60s. After the grandiose fanfares of his own “Kush,” he enters softly with a muted horn in what turns out to be a suggestive coda. He’s light-hearted on Joe Cuba’s “Bang, Bang,” and intensely virtuosic on “Theme from The Cool World.” Listening to an anthology like this, it is easy to forget that Gillespie manipulates rhythm brilliantly in every phrase he plays, delaying an entrance, landing on an unexpected note and holding it only to rush off in irregularly grouped spurts of notes. He’s not the only soloist here, of course: On “Cool World,” one hears enlivening choruses by the then-young Kenny Barron, and saxophonist James Moody is featured repeatedly. One warning about “Dizzy Talkin’”: It doesn’t contain the seemingly inevitable “Night in Tunisia” or “Manteca,” both of which can be found on another Polygram collection, “Compact Jazz” (Mercury).
Feb. 4, 1997
Michael Ullman is a jazz writer and lecturer in the music department of Tufts University. More Michael Ullman.
More Related Stories
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
- First look: The Coens' marvelous folk-music odyssey
- New York's most persecuted subway artist?
- James Franco: "I really felt I was in conversation with Faulkner"
- "Jodorowsky's Dune": The sci-fi classic that never was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11