This year, the Chicago Jazz Festival will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dizzy Gillespie’s birth, and the 70th anniversary of his big band.  Studs and Dizzy spoke on the radio a few times, and Dizzy was one of the artists profiled in Studs’ Giants of Jazz.  Dizzy Gillespie was one of the founders of bebop, and is also known for bringing Latin jazz to a wider audience with songs such as “A Night in Tunisia” and “Tin Tin Deo.”

In 1961, he and Studs had a long chat.  Studs starts out by asking, “What about you, Diz?  At the time this was highly controversial music… so called named figures and commentators and critics were giving you a rough time yet you stuck to your guns.”  They continue and talk about the difference between being a “surgeon” when listening, and just feeling the music.  Dizzy says, “Don’t try to understand it, just try to feel the music.  If you get a feeling about it, it’s not too necessary to understand that music I don’t think.”

Studs asks about Dizzy’s influences, including Latin and Cuban music.  Dizzy talks about working with Chano Pozo and then tells him, “Something about me, my makeup, musically is sort of on the Latin side because most of the tunes that I write are Latin influenced… The melody that I have in my mind always lends itself to a Latin beat.”

Hear the conversation here:

And then check out “Tin Tin Deo” performed by the Dizzy Gillespie quartet (co-written by Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller)

Studs tells Dizzy he’s heard that Quincy Jones has described Dizzy as someone who “plays the horn like a drummer.” Dizzy replies: “the way I play, I have rhythm in my mind first.  And then naturally you have the chord changes that goes with it, but you make up the notes to fit the rhythm… It’s the same thing as a drummer only he doesn’t have notes.”

The conversation continues as Studs asks Dizzy about his time playing at the Birdhouse, which did not serve alcohol.  Dizzy prefers to play to an audience that has not been drinking, and doesn’t like to play under the influence either.  Then Studs asks him about his trip to South America, and his composition “Lorraine,” named for Dizzy’s wife.

Here the conversation here:

And then check out “Lorraine.”


Towards the end of their conversation, Dizzy tells Studs he’d like to start a school in West Africa: “they have contributed so much to us and they have gotten so little in return… I figure that they could use me… This is a matter of service.”  Dizzy goes on to tell Studs, “I have such a strong feeling for the whole of Africa that any part of it would be like being in my living room or something.” 

Studs asks about the song “My Man,” and Dizzy tells the story of when he first played it as a dedication to French singer and entertainer Minstinguett, who sang the song as”Mon Homme.”

Finally, Dizzy gives Studs a great farewell, saying, “Such a pleasure to sit down and chat with someone who has such a strong feeling about jazz, and not only the strong feeling, but back it up with knowledge about the situation.”

Hear the conversation here:


Photo by William Gottlieb, courtesy of the Library of Congress: