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Dizzy Gillespie discusses the art of jazz ; part 2

BROADCAST: Mar. 30, 1961 | DURATION: 00:23:12


Part 2 of the program continues with Dizzy Gillespie discovering the following: his jazz style; his interactions with other musicians; and his latin musical influences. The following Gillespie musical excerpts are played: "Tin Tin Deo"; "La Lorraine"; and an musical piece (with an undisclosed title) is played to end the program.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel This was during one of the concerts in the early '40s or mid '40s, '44.

Dizzy Gillespie Yeah, had to be because on the regular record that Charlie Parker only played, I remember he played the [Two-Vibrate?], and then he only played one chorus. And then Big Sid Catlett was on there, oh my goodness.

Studs Terkel And this wasn't Sid.

Dizzy Gillespie That wasn't Sid. No, no.

Studs Terkel Isn't it funny, now you mentioning Big Sid Catlett, and here we come to a whole matter of someone who is beyond labeling. You know, as a matter of labels.

Dizzy Gillespie You can't label him.

Studs Terkel What about you? Does your feeling at the time when this is, at the time this was highly controversial music in the field -- At the time you were playing this, and I'm thinking of figures, so-called name figures as commentators and critics were giving you a rough time, that you stuck to your guns, you felt what you were doing was right. Did you feel discouraged at that time? To a great extent? To some extent?

Dizzy Gillespie Well, naturally, if somebody say that, if people say, "Well, I don't understand your music," so don't try to understand it, just try and feel the music, if you get a feeling about it. It's not too necessary to understand the music,

Studs Terkel Isn't this the basis of appreciating any art, Dizzy, just what you're saying now, I mean this, someone says, I've got -- That someone has to know it from A to Z, to listen as though

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, I hate people that sit down and try to pick music apart. You know, that happened to me with Gerry Mulligan. One night he came by, I think I was working at Birdland, and he said he's going out, to come out to my house, this is early in the morning, you know, after 4 o'clock. So on the way out to this club he'd been drinking. I imagine if he hadn't been drinking, he wouldn't have talked like this, but we were speaking of pianists and we were speaking about these different pianists and so Gerry started raving about some guys, some piano player that he heard, he said, "The greatest I ever heard." I said, "Gerry," I said, "You ever heard, have you ever heard Art Tatum play?" He said, "Oh, that's," he said, "Oh, that's something else." He said, "I wouldn't attempt to sit down to the piano with Art Tatum." I said, "Gerry!" I said, "I know a million other piano players, you know, pianists that wouldn't attempt to sit down and say, you can't be mentioning -- I say, I don't like that little piano playing that you do on the bandstand. Yet yet yet on your nerves, about sitting down at the piano," he was speaking in terms of him being a piano player and in terms, I tell you, and then we got out to the house and with this album that I made with the brass and the quintet I played it for him, see, and he says, and then he played it, and he said, "I don't like that introduction. I don't like the way it went out." I said, "Gerry, would you sit down and just sit down and just enjoy the music? What you want to, sit down and music to be a surgeon and pick out this little thing that you don't like and things like that, just sit down and enjoy." So, you know, I saw Gerry later and he was drunk, but the impact hadn't hit him yet. And then we didn't use but one saxophone for the first place, and he said, "You know, I hate to admit it, but do you know I didn't even miss the saxophone?" because we had this French horns and trombones come over and everything going on through everything. So he say, so the next time I saw him, he say, "About that thing that you played for me out there. Can I listen to that again?" So I played it for him again, he said, "It's terrific."

Studs Terkel Something you just said as you were talking, this attempt to be surgeons. I think we have too many surgeons who are listening. Take being clinical, taking something

Dizzy Gillespie Yeah, just sit and try to enjoy it. I never listen to music like that, only myself. I listen to other people like that but to myself when I'm playing I listen to it with that ear.

Studs Terkel Because you're self-critical.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, yes, I'm very, very self-critical when I hardly ever listen to my records anyway. If somebody put them on at their house I go to somebody's house and they, oh, they got a stack of Dizzy Gillespie records, and then they put them on, I go off into the

Studs Terkel -- The

Dizzy Gillespie I go someplace else. They got, they capture, you know, captured audience.

Studs Terkel You've done it.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, it's already done. I have to figure out something else to do. Almost everything I play, I said, "Oh, man I could have played that better. You know, I

Studs Terkel -- This

Dizzy Gillespie Could have used better taste and things like that because it's just a matter of taste anyway after you get to a certain point and your development. It's only a matter of taste what you should put there. You say, boy, that was very in bad taste, I gotta put something else there.

Studs Terkel In this matter you just bring up, I could've played that better, you yourself always changing, always growing, then what you play must of necessity be different each time,

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, it's got to be, yes. And because your taste is supposed to get better, allegedly.

Studs Terkel Dizzy, what of your observations, influences in the world of music, I know that you're aware of different national music and how you try to integrate it into your jazz, thinking of Latin influence, you used Chano, didn't you, in "Tin Tin Deo"?

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, well, when I first, when Chano first hummed this "Tin Tin Deo" to me, we were out in California, so he didn't write, he just composed and then someone would write it down for him, so I only wrote eight bars down, just eight bars. And I said, "Well, later on I'm gonna do something with this and maybe we get together." So, finally I had this little record company of mine, and I said, "Well, I want to make 'Tin Tin Deo,'" and I had to write a whole new tune because there was no bridge. I only had eight bars to go with, and then I didn't understand too much because he was so advanced that that that that Latin music at that time was so different from the rhythm rhythmically was so different from our music that the impact on it just came to me here recently, you know, that I can say, "What? Is that what he was doing?"

Studs Terkel So it took years after you had written it.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, yes, yes. I say, "Well, is that what he was doing?" Because he had used to show me, Al McKibbon the bass player, was with Shearing, and now I guess he's with Cal Tjader. Well, Al was in the band and we'd take three drums and we on these long country rides, you know, in the bus. We'd sit back in the back, you'd think we were in Africa, because Chano would show, show me one rhythm, show Al another rhythm, and he's take another rhythm and then he'd sing, and oh, it was quite something, boy, that was.

Studs Terkel So there were three here again, at the time you were interested in the Cubano-African -- Whatever it

Dizzy Gillespie Well, I became interested in Cuban music when I was with Cab but I didn't do anything about it because -- But Cab had a Cuban trumpet player, Mario Bauza, who's director of the Machito band, and who Mario is the one who got me the job with Cab, because he used to be with Chick Webb, he was a French trumpet player with Chick Webb, and he liked me, and I used to follow him around, and Chick would used to let me sit in. I was the only one that he'd let sit in. I don't know why that, I mean, there was a, oh man, New York was full of trumpet players that want, you know, to sit in Chick Webb's, well, he let me sit in [Tab's?] place, and I'd go and play.

Studs Terkel Well, probably Webb who obviously is so perceptive was, under--

Dizzy Gillespie I don't know why. And I was interested in that then, so finally when I got this big band, I told Mario, I said, "Look, I want to get one of those drums those guys play. I know absolutely nothing about it, you know, maybe two bars or you know, something like that." And I went to see Chano, and he couldn't even speak no English.

Studs Terkel This is so, here's how a few bars of a man who could speak no English, you because of this catapult that you had, this jump that you have, in these bars composed

Dizzy Gillespie Well, you know I think I'm a loose, I'm a little closer. Something about me, my makeup, musically, is sort of on the Latin side because most of the tunes that I write, most of the tunes that I write are Latin- influenced. You know, they have some kind of a rhythm, something to it. "A Night in Tunisia," "Woody 'n' You," "Lorraine," "Tin Tin Deo," all these different things that they have the Latin thing. And I don't mean to go into this, but it looks like the melody I have, the melody that I have in my mind, always lends itself to a Latin beat.

Studs Terkel Probably the natural verve that Dizzy has himself in thi s music and there's a

Dizzy Gillespie I don't know.

Studs Terkel We may, this is "Tin Tin Deo."


Studs Terkel That's where we find ourselves somewhere in Rio. Now, Dizzy, in listening to you play here, there's a comment that Quincy Jones made that seems very pertinent in connection with what you said earlier. He says, you play the horn as a drummer does. What -- Will you mind expanding on that?

Dizzy Gillespie Well, I think what he means is, you're supposed to set notes to rhythm instead of vice versa, instead of setting harmony

Studs Terkel What you said earlier about the water.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, yes,

Studs Terkel yes. That

Dizzy Gillespie You see when you -- You supposed to make -- 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, you make up the notes to fit the rhythm. So you have your rhythm going, so it's the same thing as the drummer, only he doesn't have notes.

Studs Terkel Isn't this really the basis of, well, there's no one thing that's a basis, but one of the bases of jazz, as we know it, shouldn't this be one of the credos of it, really?

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, that should be. It should be be the main thing, and you should get that first before you even attempt to do anything else.

Studs Terkel Some other aspects of Dizzy Gillespie's life and attitude, where you're playing now, at the Birdhouse, there's an interesting experiment taking place, the audience is quite young, generally jazz is young, what the seem quite -- And no alcoholic beverages are served.

Dizzy Gillespie Well, I love that.

Studs Terkel I'm curious, well, tell me

Dizzy Gillespie -- I hate drunken people listening to music and trying to make you think that they enjoying it and then they don't, they're enjoying the whiskey that they're drinking, really, you see. Well, I've had some experience playing with non-alcoholic audiences before, such as in college concerts. You don't have whiskey flowing all over the place. I think the ideal spot would be a club where you could -- I think I'm going, when I get a little older, I'm going --- I want to open up a club. I have a terrific idea about a club.

Studs Terkel What's the idea?

Dizzy Gillespie And I'm not going to tell.

Studs Terkel Oh, you're not going to

Dizzy Gillespie I want to do it myself. She's looking right at me. I have a terrific idea about a club, I said I've got to go, but I'm not going to tell. I want to do it myself. So when you hear that I have a club, you know that's supposed to be the ideal club.

Studs Terkel But this matter of the, in lieu of your club which you will open and you won't tell us about, the matter of the non-alc-- Again where soft drinks are -- Where full attention is paid. There is no pretense, there is no audience humor, in other words.

Dizzy Gillespie That's right, that's right. There's nothing to compete with the musicians.

Studs Terkel This in a way can also break the stereotype idea that many people who don't know jazz and may involve a number of WFMT listeners who, it's a strange world, in the world of jazz, associate jazz immediately with something that is raffish. There's nothing wrong with raffish, with the love of life, but with a drinking and a wildness on the part of the audience that is wholly unrelated to the music itself.

Dizzy Gillespie Unrelated all together. Yes, because you can't play under the influence of stimulants, any kind of stimulant. Your blood pressure goes up, and your mind's -- Doesn't work as fast as when you -- It's the same as when -- Playing under the influence of a stimulant it's like if someone was, as soon as you wake up in the morning, somebody give you a horn and say, "Here! Play!" You know, your mind is cobwebs all over your mind until you get up, and fresh up and wash your face and get around and then practice a little bit and then play.

Studs Terkel This point you're making, here this is such a -- So many in the past, at least, some young musicians think because they're under a stimulant of one sort or another, to them it sounds better, to them at that moment, than

Dizzy Gillespie Ooh, but boy, they got a rude awakening coming. If someone were to put a tape recorder on you when you're under the influence of any kind of a stimulant and put that tape on you and you really know just how you sound because it sounds good to you, you know, for one thing, whiskey, for one thing, I'm not speaking against whiskey because it has its medicinal values, but you, your reflexes slow up, so therefore you were behind, you're a little behind and you think that you're getting with it and everything. Well, you can think. I mean your, your mind, you have hallucinations. You think that

Studs Terkel you're You think you're fine, but in reality

Dizzy Gillespie Reality.

Studs Terkel The artist has to be in control of his faculties.

Dizzy Gillespie That's right. That's right.

Studs Terkel Dizzy, what of other trips and adventures and the music that came as a result of it. There's a story connected with Lorraine. You wrote "Lorraine," I know Lorraine is your wife's

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, I was -- Well, at first I was inspired by my wife first and then I went to South America on the State Department tour, they sent me to South America, and I was so inspired by the music down there, I said, "Well, I got to find something to show them that I appreciate it." You know it's so funny, you go to a foreign country and the first thing they want to play for you is jazz, see? But that's not really what I like to hear from from different countries. I want to hear their music and then let me see what they do with their own music. So down in South America I came across this thing, and I was listening to music and then I guess just happened to compose this little piece. But what we're going to do now, after this is when I record this again, I expect to record it again, I'm going to record it as a samba. Now, I don't know what kind of rhythm this is in this tune, as a matter of fact because we only play it with the, most of time it's just the guitar and the trumpet and the conga drum. But the next time I record it, I'm going to make a big thing out of because I think it will it would have been more adaptable to a samba because you see sambas, instead of eight bars, most of the time they are 16 bars, and [we're sissies? where six is?]. So, it gives you time to get through and instead of being in four/four, it's in two/four, but you get this 'boom, boom' instead of one set of 'boom boom boom boom' you get 'boom, boom.' And so I think it will be a little more a little better that that I'm going to make. I want to make an album of my compositions of different countries in South America such as "Brazil," which is a samba, "Argentine," in which I have my pianist is from Buenos Aires, and we're going to do something in that groove, and "Tango," modern tango, you know, and then Cuban, and, you know, from South

Studs Terkel Variations on Latin themes as each of the countries represents, well, let's see to what extent in this version of "Lorraine," or you will redo it as a samba, in this version a Latin-American influence is felt.

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Studs Terkel Latin American influence or no Latin American, one thing is clear and I think of something Francis Newton, of the "New Statesman" said, as you listen to Dizzy play here, he says, "We've seen some people fail to recognize that they think of Dizzy as the pioneer of a style that with effortless technical man of musical intelligence he plays this instrument master of it." The fact that you yourself are such an excellent musician has actually excellent taste is too seldom mentioned, Dizzy. But here again this had enough of the influence, though, I hear you as you were here you were telling a funny story of a little slip that took place there on the record. Dizzy, we haven't -- there's so many -- I know you have to play tonight and you've got to retain some of your energy for tonight and you've given us insights into you, Dizzy Gillespie, your outlook on music, there's one, in the countries you visited, you you haven't visited West Africa yet, have you?

Dizzy Gillespie No, I haven't. I expect to go there, though. As a matter of fact, I expect to settle in West Africa, 'cause I want to start a little school down there, you know, because they have contributed so much to us and they've gotten so little in return, because no one ever goes there, too, and I figure that they could use me. It's just a matter of service because they need me.

Studs Terkel Many countries do, I think, someone like -- But you say, you thinking of specifically a place like Ghana, perhaps, or?

Dizzy Gillespie Maybe, maybe Ghana, maybe Nigeria, maybe one of the new ones of [unintelligible], one of the, one of the, it doesn't matter what country to me because I have such a strong feeling for the whole of Africa that that any part of it would be just like being in my living room or something like that. And I would, I'd have a school but I have a name for the school,

Studs Terkel Yeah?

Dizzy Gillespie Yes, oh, yeah, I already figured the name, yes. It would be, it wouldn't be like a conservatoire. It would be a coat-puller. A coat-puller, you see, we have a saying, musicians have a saying where if someone pulls your coat to something, they giving you information about something, like you see if if a musician walks out, so say a musician would walk out of this building here and it's real cold outside. He doesn't know it, see, so he's inside here. So he walks out in a shirt, you know, and now another musician had just come in and knows it's cold out there, and he say, so this musician walk out in his shirtsleeve, he ask the other musician, say, "Why didn't you pull my coat?" You know, why didn't you pull his coat that it was cold out there, you know?

Studs Terkel What a marvelous phrase, tip him off.

Dizzy Gillespie Yeah, yes, tip him off, yes, it would be a coat-puller.

Studs Terkel A school -- A coat-puller.

Dizzy Gillespie Yeah, The Dizzy Gillespie Coat-Puller.

Studs Terkel And so, teaching it's all that

Dizzy Gillespie Young ones, yes, I'd like to take them kids, because, boy, there's a wealth of talent down there and I figured out if I could do some good with my experience, with the experience that I have had that that that not from the teachers that I've had because I haven't had too many, but from people who have pulled my coat, this is dedicated to them. So I remember one time in Detroit I was with Cab Calloway. I used to always hold my horn down into the stand, you know, and play. So this is something a trumpet player was in the pit of the Fox Theatre in Detroit. He'd tell me, he'd say, "Gillespie," he'd say, "You all right, but hold your horn up, so I can hear the parts, your part is lost." I say, "Well, I'm reading the music." He say, "Yeah, but you gotta learn how to look over, you know." You know what he finally did? He finally sat down in that pit and I see him sit down there, and every time my horn would go down this way, he'd bring his hand up. "Come on, bring it up!" And it got me in the habit of holding my horn up, you know, different little things like that, tips.

Studs Terkel He was pulling your coat. Definitely. And of course, we need -- Before we end with Dizzy's, the playing of "My Man," I'm sure that the audience will agree we need a lot of Dizzy Gillespie's coat-pulling here, too. I hope someday his African, also you have, you have several dreams, those of that nightclub, too, you were talking about.

Dizzy Gillespie That's right. I have one in everything, we're not going to have it in Africa, too, you know.

Studs Terkel What of "My Man"? A little -- We're about to hear, what we'll sort of sign off with "My Man."

Dizzy Gillespie Well, during the course of my travels I had the pleasure of meeting the great French actress Mistinguett, the old actress.

Studs Terkel The old-timer.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes. She's

Studs Terkel Music-hall favorite.

Dizzy Gillespie Yes. And she -- I was in her dressing room in Montreal once, and then in Paris. So the next time I went back to Paris it was the concert tour and I knew that she was famous for my -- For "Mon Homme," which is "My Man," and so at the concert, she didn't know I was going to do it, and I invited her to the concert, and then I said, "Well, I'm going to dedicate this number to the greatest [exponent? export?] that France has shown to, you know, in [those? most?] things and then I announced, "Mistinguett," oh, the house came down and I played "My Man." And it's just one of those things where I dedicated a tune to her. And then we started playing it and I liked it. So I've been playing ever

Studs Terkel And so we say to Dizzy Gillespie, "Mon Homme," mon homme of so many people. Dizzy, thank you very

Dizzy Gillespie Thank you very much. It sure is a pleasure out here. It's such a pleasure to sit down and chat with you as someone who has such a strong feeling about jazz, and not only the strong feeling but will back it up with knowledge about the situation and it's such a pleasure. I hope I do this again, and I want this tape for my house

Studs Terkel This is Chapter 1. Dizzy Gillespie, thank you very much, Diz.

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