Dizzy’s “Sweet Lorraine”

After rounds of research and interviews, I am finally in the writing phase of a Dizzy Gillespie project whose nature I will disclose to you one of these days. For now, suffice it to say that it involves Gillespie club performances most of which have never been released. In the course of listening to them, I took many side trips to his work on issued records . One of them that I hadn’t listened to in a couple of decades reminded me that Dizzy made one of the classic versions of a song that has never lost its charm or its harmonic structure’s possibilities. This is what a great artist did in one chorus of melodic improvisation on “Sweet Lorraine.”

I wonder if he was thinking of his wife, Lorraine, as he played that.

Dizzy Gillespie in Paris in 1952, with Bill Tamper, trombone; Hubert Fol, alto saxophone; Don Byas, tenor saxophone; Raymond Fol, piano; Pierre Michelot, bass; and Pierre Lemarchand, drums.

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  1. says

    How lovely! — This was the time, in the early-, mid-1950’s, when Dizzy began to deepen his expression; a lot of splendid ballad interpretations were the result of this introspective period in his life. Also his lines on the fast tempi became harmonically more complex, less eccentric, regarding clownesque musical interludes.

    “Sweet Lorraine” inspired many other top notch jazz musicians to deliver marvelous, unforgettable interpretations: Nat ‘King’ Cole, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, or Frank Sinatra.

    Here’s one of them, featuring the earliest Bud Powell on record while he was boppin’ the 88’s in Cootie Williams Orchestra & Sextet.

    I presume, this is 20-year-old Bud’s re-harmonisation & arrangement:

    Sweet Lorraine (1944)

    Cootie Williams (tp) Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson (as) Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (ts) Bud Powell (p) Norman Keenan (b) Sylvester “Vess” Payne (d) – NYC, January 4, 1944.

  2. dick vartanian says

    That’s easily the best rendition of “Sweet Lorraine” I have ever heard. In those days I was still playing trumpet and Diz was my idol. However, I offered no competition

  3. says

    I’d never heard this version of “Sweet Lorraine” but it is enchanting. Somehow I feel this is an abbreviated rendition. The ending is a overly abrupt to my ears, just when I’d have loved at least another five minutes of Dizzy’s sensitive playing. Am I completely off base here?

    • Doug Ramsey says

      That’s how it is on the original Vogue 78 rpm single and all later LP and CD releases. If you would like to hear Dizzy play the tune at somewhat greater length, listen to him 39 years later with Dorothy Donegan and her trio on a jazz cruise. John Burr is the bassist, Ray Mosca the drummer. It’s from this album.

    • says

      Yep, Carol, that’s what one of my students noticed too when I played the record to him during yesterday’s lesson. I think the others were so mesmerized by Dizzy’s improvisation that they almost missed their cue for the final bars. I can vividly imagine Dizzy, “waking” them up with a demonstrative move of his horn: “Hey guys, this is where it’s at!” — In French of course :)

      P.S. — One should never forget that Dizzy was *the* leading trumpet man in the early 1950’s; and for the young European cats he was simply …God.

      Now, think of this: You’re a young French sax player, you have listened to all of Diz’s ‘n’ Bird’s famous recordings, shared them with your friends, analyzed them; you may have heard weird stories about Charlie Parker and the bebop years, and now, all of a sudden “is God in the house”, standing next to you, playing all those beautiful notes directly into your eager ears:

      I would have surely missed the coda to “Sweet Lorraine” 😉

  4. says

    Thanks for the link to Donald Maggin’s account of the struggle to end Princeton’s racist admissions policies in the late 1940’s. This and similar sagas are important to have chronicled and to bear in mind as the U.S. continues its awkward climb out of the depths of slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy. My niece, Class of ’11, was a member of Tiger Inn. She knew going in that it had been the last of the dining clubs at Princeton to admit women, but I directed her attention to the club’s display of group portraits that reveal a glaring absence of blacks in its membership until relatively recently as the more telling element of Princeton’s history. Maggin’s fascinating article led me to this first person account of Robert Rivers, Jr., an African-American who’d grown up in Princeton and was a member of the Class of ’53. He too had attended the Princeton summer camp that Maggin’s hero, Frank Broderick, had helped integrate.

    Not to take anything away from these courageous individual efforts, or to forget how ahead of the curve jazz was as a visible display of blacks and whites working together, it’s still black heroism in World War II and President Truman’s 1948 executive order ending segregation in the military that proved to be the essential tipping points in the march toward integration both at Princeton and in the nation. Would that Woodrow Wilson had been as valorous as the Fighting 369th and other black regiments in World War I, but as history has shown and Maggin underscores, Wilson was a true Princetonian of his time.

    I look forward to Maggin’s bio of Max Roach. Max taught me many valuable lessons through his struggle to integrate jazz in the music curriculum at UMass-Amherst 40 years ago, and inspired my own efforts a decade later to establish jazz programming at the previously all-classical WFCR.

  5. says

    As chilled-out and relaxed as Diz is on this sweet ballad he still found it in his heart to slip his personal and typically fiery anthem into the mix: Check out the opening strain of A Night In Tunisia at the 1:26 mark of this cut!

    One of the most important legacies of the greats from Dizzy’s era is how to repurpose anything to suit your immediate need for expression – a great melodic phrase can be used slow or fast, mournful or triumphant. Obviously these masters spoke simultaneously on many levels and often said something humorous on the surface while being deeply tinged with a sadness.

  6. Terry Martin says

    Never heard that version ever. Great! Without being too gushing I would put it at bebop’s equivalent of Bunny Berigan’s ‘Cant get Started’.

  7. Bart Roderick says

    Wow – resolving on the tritone of the tonic really works in this setting. Now I’m going to do that on every single tune. Sharp four here I come!

    • says

      That’s the way to go, Bart: Sharp 4’s rule!

      A mightily swingin’ Miles Davis played four unresolved sharp 4’s (a.k.a. #11’s) in a row, namely at the four initial chords of “Someday My Prince Will Come” (3rd chorus, 2nd 16 bars), which is, by the way, an equally timeless, inimitably stylish jazz improvisation.