John Birks Gillespie’s 93rd

Note: If this item looks familiar, it is because I mistakenly posted it on October 17. Today, October 21, is the correct date of Dizzy’s birth, so the Rifftides staff is moving the piece to where it belongs and adding a couple of links—DR.
This is the birthday of Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993). In observance, here is a remarkable confluence of the talents of Gillespie and the master composer and arranger Robert Farnon (1917-2005). The piece is Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” orchestrated by Farnon and conducted by him at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1985. The delay between video and audio is mildly disconcerting, but the music is glorious.

For insight into how Dizzy’s thoughtfulness and generosity affected one of many musicians, see today’s entry in Diane Moser’s blog.
For a personal remembrance, see this Rifftides archive piece.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. says

    Thanks so very much, Doug! — What a funny coincidence that is, ’cause I’m at it at this very moment, putting all of Dizzy’s live LP albums with his famous first orchestra (1946 to 1949) in chronological order, and burn them on CD.
    To see a picture with the very young Dizzy (among others), feel free to click on my name. — I didn’t think of his birthday at all, but there must have been some kind of positive vibration from one trumpeter (you) to the other (me) that this very day is an important one for us, the men of brass.
    Happy birthday to you, Dizzy, up in bop heaven!

  2. Doug Zielke says

    I can’t remember the year, but it was well into the twilight of Dizzy’s long career that he came to play in Seattle, at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. Of course I had to go, seeing it was just a couple of hours from my home. We arrived early, but Dizzy and Lorraine were already there, King and Queen, holding court with dozens of admiring fans. I had brought an album hoping for an autograph. Not only did Diz sign it for me, but chatted me up on what I liked about the recording. The small venue was jammed; standing room only. But all ears were filled with driving, swinging bop!
    Happy birthday, Mr. Gillespie!

  3. says

    Dizzy Gillespie date of birth — 21 October 1917
    Sarah Vaughan date of birth — March 27, 1924
    1917. I remember that well because he was only three years younger than our mom; Sarah was ten years younger.
    One afternoon when both were performing separately in Rochester, I watched in amazement from a few places away at my father’s dinner table as three people at the end of the table chatted away like old high school friends: Mom, long time friend Dizzy and new to our acquaintance, Sarah Vaughn.
    Sarah, who had arrived with a floral gift, said hello to the adults (we’d not met her before — Dizzy suggested we invite her) and immediately got down to play on the living room floor with our six children—my two, Chuck’s two and two of our sister Josephine’s! The others at dinner that day, in addition to our family members, were Percy Heath and Mickey Roker.
    Very fond memories indeed.

  4. Rob D says

    I have a personal little story about Dizzy. My sister used to play in a marching band from our small town in N. Ontario. She travelled around Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in the summertime doing concerts and having competitions with other bands.
    She told me a story after coming back one year from one of her long road trips. She said “we met one of those jazz guys you like…I think it was Count Basie.” I was flabbergasted that my kid sister, who was more into Donny Osmond and the Jackson 5, would get to meet jazz royalty. Further questioning revealed that she had actually seen Dizzy giving the band an impromptu lesson near the outdoor performance venue they were to perform at later in the day. She talked and talked about what a terrific person he much fun they all had and how interested he actually was in their then nascent musical skills.
    Apparently he was just in town, heard them practicing in the park and headed over to see what was what! And I missed meeting one of my heroes cause they wouldn’t let me into an all girl band. Morons….hee hee
    Dizzy’s records continue to delight me. The sense of excitment he creates is what draws me to him. I was listening last week to the record he did with Max Roach in Paris—just the two of them—and it is timeless stuff. Hope Diz is having a good time in heaven..he’s probably teaching someone up there too.
    Did you sis become a lifelong Dizzy fan or go back to Donny O?—DR
    LOL..she became wary of dismissing jazz as she started to realize how highly
    regarded many of the players were in musical circles. She developed into a
    fairly accomplished amateur trumpet player and of course, began to
    appreciate what guys like Dizzy could do on the horn.
    She has a small jazz collection at home but she isn’t really a big music
    fan these days.
    Donny still pulls at her heartstrings though…wink..the first loves are
    the hardest to forget.—RD