I recall British critic Max Harrison commenting that one of the sad aspects of modern jazz was the failure of one of its founders, Dizzy Gillespie, to produce compelling music after the death of his partner Charlie Parker.
It’s true that like many great jazz players, Gillespie’s style didn’t evolve dramatically after his early career. But as often with Harrison, the judgment is rather harsh, and the present album would be leading evidence in the case against it.
This was Gillespie’s only album for MPS, and it was produced by legendary writer and producer Joachim Berendt. It’s classic bebop, expanded into a spectacular big-band context. The Reunion Big Band features some of the finest jazz musicians of the period, including trumpeters Jimmy Owens and Dizzy Reece, and saxophonists Cecil Payne and Sahib Shihab.
The album was recorded live at the opening concert of the 1968 Berlin Jazz Festival. Of the album’s six compositions, four were composed or co-composed by Gillespie. The reissue – which first appeared in 2016 – includes original liner notes by Berendt. The recording quality is excellent.
The album opens with one of the most exciting performances of one of the most exciting jazz compositions ever recorded – Gillespie’s Things To Come, taken at a blistering lick. As Lee Konitz would say, Gillespie’s superb solo sounds familiar at times, though that could just reflect how often I’ve played this version. The penultimate track, The Things Are Here, is a contrafact. A beautiful interpretation of Con Alma is another highlight.
Remarkably, three of the trumpet section are still with us – Jimmy Owens, Jamaican-born Dizzy Reece, and British trumpeter Stu Hamer. An essential recording of modern jazz.
Things To Come; One Bass Hit; Frisco; Con Alma; The Things Are Here; Theme – Birks’ Works (43.25)
Gillespie, Stu Hamer, Jimmy Owens, Victor Paz, Dizzy Reece (t); Curtis Fuller, Ted Kelly, Tom McIntosh (tb); James Moody (as, ts); Sahib Shihab (as, bar); Chris Woods (as); Paul Jeffrey (ts); Cecil Payne (bar); Mike Longo (p); Paul West (b); Candy Finch (d). Berlin, 7 November 1968.