"And Then She Stopped" by Dizzy Gillespie, 1965

Monday, September 30, 2013

Choosing a favorite trumpet player is tricky business, especially probably for a trumpet player. For most of my high school years as a player, I would have said Miles Davis, despite the fact that I often had trouble listening to him. I suppose I thought Miles, like much jazz and like all the new drinks I was trying at the time, was an acquired taste. Perhaps he is; I certainly like him more now than I did then. However, choosing him as a favorite was dishonest and an affectation. I discovered Clifford Brown my first year of college, and I loved his tone and his solo style and his pace, and I was like, "Ohhhh. This is way better."

I still think that about Clifford Brown, but in recent years I've remember how much I loved Dizzy's music even before I affectedly chose Miles Davis. (There was a brief period in which I worshipped Wynton Marsalis, for his exquisite tone and technical ability, and for his willingness to move, and skill at moving, from jazz to classical and back effortlessly. But he was rarely any fun.) I'd abandoned Dizzy as a fan probably because I knew he flared his cheeks, something every novice trumpet player is taught not to do. Also he kept showing up on the Cosby Show, which didn't seem disdainful of popular culture to a degree sufficient for a jazz musician. Miles Davis wouldn't even look at the audience, never mind appear on a sitcom.

Much in the way we can often as adults return to childhood favorites in movies and books, I returned to Dizzy only recently. Dizzy Gillespie composed and performed music that possessed all the qualities of bebop that I loved then and now. Maybe especially the Afro-Cuban stuff from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, like "Manteca" and "A Night in Tunisia" (I could just as easily have included either of those two on this list) and this piece, "And Then She Stopped," Dizzy's music had the wit and technical showmanship of most great jazz, but it was also eminently danceable and possessed a kind of musical humor. Jazz often cracks jokes, usually with brief musical allusions during solos, but I mean something more than that--Dizzy's compositions are inherently good natured and fun. Dizzy also played in the highest register of the instrument to a point that often seems a little absurd, setting off tiny musical fireworks. I love that.

A little of all of this is apparent in the video herewith, from a live performance of "And Then She Stopped" from 1965, the year of its initial release.