The image to the left captures a moment in a short, happy period in the histories of two major figures in the jazz of the late twentieth century. In 1970 bassist Red Mitchell joined Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet for a European tour that included concerts in Holland and France. When I recently visited Mike Longo in New York, he recalled the tour as one of the highlights of his eight years as Gillespie’s pianist and music director.
Guitarist George Davis and drummer David Lee came to Gillespie’s and Longo’s attention when they heard them in the late sixties while the Gillespie band was in New Orleans for an engagement at Economy Hall in the basement of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Davis and Lee were in the thick of the Crescent City’s modern jazz community that also included Willie and Earl Turbinton, Johnny Vidacovich, Al Belletto, Ellis Marsalis and Richard Payne. Their association with Gillespie and Longo brought them to the attention of listeners around the world.
Mitchell had played briefly with Gillespie before he moved to Sweden, where he lived for the next for 24 years. He was lauded as one of the great bassists even before he made the innovative decision to tune his bass in intervals of fifths rather than the traditional fourths. Mitchell’s solo on “A Night in Tunisia” in the video we’re about to watch gives an indication of how he incorporated the unconventional tuning into his stunning technique. The benefactor who made the YouTube upload of the video is identified only as belltele1, evidently someone in Russia. As for the location of the concert, Mike Longo recalls that it was “somewhere in France.”
Listening tip: The sound is not digital quality. I found that it improved when I boosted the treble and reduced the bass. Toward the end of this 35-minute segment of the concert, we get a generous sample of Dizzy’s scatting prowess.