John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (21 October 1917, Cheraw, S.C. – 6 January 1993, Englewood, N.J.) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and occasional singer.
Gillespie was the youngest of nine children of James and Lottie Gillespie. James was a local bandleader, so instruments were made available to the children. Gillespie started to play the piano at the age of four. Gi Gillespie taught himself how to play the trombone as well as the trumpet by the age of twelve. From the night he heard his idol, Roy Eldridge, play on the radio, he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician.He received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina which he attended for two years before accompanying his family when they moved to Philadelphia.
Gillespie's first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, after which he joined the respective orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill, essentially replacing Roy Eldridge as first trumpet in 1937. Teddy Hill's band was where Gillespie made his first recording, King Porter Stomp.
In 1939, Gillespie joined Cab Calloway's orchestra, with which he recorded one of his earliest compositions, the instrumental Pickin' the Cabbage, in 1940.
In the 1940s Gillespie, with Charlie Parker, became a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unheard in jazz. His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in popularizing bebop. He taught and influenced many other musicians, including trumpeters Miles Davis, Jon Faddis, Fats Navarro, and Chuck Mangione.
AllMusic's Scott Yanow wrote, " Arguably Gillespie is remembered, by both critics and fans alike, as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time."
Works for Winds
- Dizzy Gillespie, Wikipedia Accessed 2 May 2016
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Dizzy Gillespie." Accessed 2 May 2016.