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Who Was Dizzy Gillespie?
Greg is a composer and jazz trumpeter. He has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and has taught college and high school music. Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Log in or Sign up. A critic once called trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's music 'the sound of surprise. The trumpet virtuoso's strident high notes, his ability to improvise at unheard-of speeds, and his flair for dramatic, extreme playing - you never knew what would come next in a Dizzy Gillespie solo. From his early swing days to his groundbreaking collaborations with Charlie Parker and Chano Pozo, this lesson will cover many sides of Dizzy Gillespie, including the origin of his name. His father was a career bandleader, so young John had access to all sorts of musical instruments from an early age, including brasses, saxophones, and an upright piano John's first musical instrument.
The Sound of Surprise
Dizzy Gillespie, known for his "swollen" cheeks and signature uniquely angled trumpet's bell, got his start in the mids by working in prominent swing bands, including those of Benny Carter and Charlie Barnet. He later created his own band and developed his own signature style, known as "bebop," and worked with musical greats like Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald , Earl Hines, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. He would go on to become one of the most recognizable faces of jazz music, with his "swollen" cheeks and signature trumpet's bell, as well as one of the most influential figures of jazz and bebop. When he was 18 years old, Gillespie moved with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After his father died in , Gillespie taught himself the trumpet and trombone ; for two years he attended the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina , where he played in the band and took music classes. Gillespie formed his own orchestra in the late s, and it was considered to be one of the finest large jazz ensembles. Gillespie formed other bands sporadically throughout the remainder of his career, but he played mostly in small groups from the s onward. To many, Gillespie ranks as the greatest jazz trumpeter of all time, with the possible exception of Louis Armstrong. He took the saxophone-influenced lines of Roy Eldridge and executed them faster, with greater ease and harmonic daring, playing his jagged melodies with abandon, reaching into the highest registers of the trumpet range, and improvising into precarious situations from which he seemed always to extricate himself. Other personal trademarks included his bent-bell trumpet and his enormous puffy cheeks that ballooned when playing. Although his most innovative period was over by the end of the s, Gillespie continued to perform at the highest level. During the s he made several big band, small-group, and duet recordings with such players as Oscar Peterson and Count Basie that rank among his best work. As an active musical ambassador, Gillespie led several overseas tours sponsored by the U.