TO BE, OR NOT. . .TO BOP by Dizzy with Al Fraser Gillespie

TO BE, OR NOT. . .TO BOP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If he's younger than me and playing trumpet, he's following in my footsteps""--because pretty soon after John Birks Gillespie hit N.Y. around 1935, he started adding to the jazz style he picked up from Roy Eldridge (who learned from Louis Armstrong); based on his study of chords at the piano, ""Dizzy"" began adding flatted fifths and other harmonic subleties to his fast runs and big leaps. True, not all the band-leaders he played with appreciated these innovations--Cab Calloway said, ""Man, listen will you please don't be playing all that Chinese music up there!""--but Dizzy was determined ""to play my own style."" And once he found inspiring soul-mates in Charlie ""Bird"" Parker and Thelonius Monk, ""bebop"" was born--those harmonic advances plus Latin polyrhythms--and it thrived, in Dizzy's own big bands and in smaller combos that dominated Manhattan's 52nd Street clubs. The be-bop cultism and stereotypes of the late Forties soon followed (Dizzy decries both), with the fad quickly fading as ""cool"" jazz and danceable rock-n-roll took over. . . This is an important chunk of jazz history, and you can find it--along with Dizzy's anger at watered-down white jazz (Stan Kenton, George Shearing), his lament for drug-addict Parker, and his hurts from racism--in the happily married trumpeter's rambling, raunchy, often canny and witty contributions here. Unfortunately, however, you'll also find pages and pages of extraneous, repetitious trivia and chatter--some from Dizzy, most from the dozens of musicians and hangers-on who've been asked to supply reminiscences and opinions. Some of this counterpoint is fascinating, but most is not, like Ella Fitzgerald recalling: ""On that southern tour, right now nothing stands out, except I remember that he used to always want Lorraine to make his eggs. Everywhere we'd go, he'd want Lorraine to make his eggs. No matter where we went, Lorraine had to make the eggs."" Some vital, vivid music history--but the soloist is nearly swamped by all those noisy, messy back-up voices.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1979
ISBN: 0816665478
Publisher: Doubleday