Term Paper: Jazz Gillespie Live in '58: Analyzing

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Jazz

Gillespie Live in '58: Analyzing and Appreciating a Historic Jazz Concert

The live performance given in Belgium in 1958 by Dizzy Gillespie and some notable band mates is both historically important, helping to solidify the spread of modern jazz to Europe, and aesthetically pleasing today. Despite being a half-century old, the sounds that this group produces still sound fresh, causing almost any listener to start toe-tapping and finger-snapping. Joining Gillespie on his ubiquitous trumpet are Sonny Stitt on saxophones (tenor and alto), Lou Levy at the piano, Ray Brown on bass and Gus Johnson on the drums, and this quintet puts modern jazz through its paces with a variety of songs and sounds. The varying roles that each player and instrument has in each song demonstrates the level of mastery that each of these musicians brings to the group and the performance.

Blues After Dark

A mute solidly in his upward-slanting trumpet, Gillespie is joined by Stitt on the tenor sax as they begin "Blues After Dark" by playing the simple melody in unison, with Lou Levy's piano breaking in only to fill the spaces between the sparse melodic spurts provided by the fronting duo. The song gives way relatively quickly to a solo by Gillespie, during which Gus Johnson's drums become slightly more noticeable if only for their almost non-presence under the lightly brushed strokes of the restrained percussionist. Neither Johnson nor Brown ever move out of the basic rhythm section on this piece, and Levy's piano also remains primarily in the background though without the strong rhythm of a stride piano or of the bass and drums. After Gillespie's solo, throughout which Stitt stands silently to the side, the saxophonist steps to center stage for his own solo, which Gillespie punctuates with short blasts on occasion before standing aside and letting Stitt take over. Johnson has moved from brushes (or a brush) to sticks at some point, and the song picks up intensity ever so slightly under his insistence.

His solo completed, Stitt steps off to join Gillespie on the sidelines while Levy enjoys a brief yet relatively tame solo, interesting becoming more predictable in its rhythm -- a heavier left hand more reliably hitting every downbeat -- before the horn players come back to the melody. Levy again fills the silences, though with les improvisation and much greater simplicity. Throughout these final repetitions of the melody, the bass and rums have become all but invisible, with Johnson again relying on his brushes to provide just a whisper of sound and with Brown's bass contributing an undercurrent to the subdued chords of Levy's piano. Gillespie's solo is the clear standout here, beginning with an ornamented version of the melody before breaking into a counterpoint melody and then indulging in loud blasts and fast chromatic trills and including melodic nods to other songs. This highly successful solo is reminiscent of Armstrong and points of things to come from Miles Davis. By returning the listener to earth with an almost-unchanged repetition of the main melodic line, Gillespie satisfies emotionally by calling up a yearning that still seems to be controlled or perhaps even satiated.

Sunny Side of the Street

As with "Blues After Dark," "Sunny Side of the Street" begins with Gillespie and Stitt sharing the melody, though the bass under Brown's strumming fingers much brighter and almost seeming… [END OF PREVIEW]

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