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Music Review: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet – Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet

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Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet is a collection of previously unreleased tracks from two 1961 concert performances in Stuttgart and Frankfurt by the bebop trumpet giant culled from the archives of Südwestrundfunk (Southwest Broadcasting in Germany). Along with the trumpeter, the quintet includes Leo Wright on flute and alto sax, Lalo Schifrin on piano, Bob Cunningham on bass, and Mel Lewis on drums.

Along with the trumpeter, the quintet includes Leo Wright on flute and alto sax, Lalo Schifrin on piano, Bob Cunningham on bass, and Mel Lewis on drums. The album opens with five tunes from a November 27, 1961, Stuttgart concert. First there is a dramatic 16-minute take of the Duke Ellington classic, “The Mooche,” in which everyone in the ensemble gets a chance to shine with some nice solo work. The Gillespie original “Con Alma” plays with Afro-Cuban rhythms and offers some interesting possibilities for Schifrin. The piece is reprised with a second take from a Frankfurt concert two days later. The alternate versions offer a nice opportunity for comparison.

“Willow Weep for Me” has Wright playing some masterful flute on the sensuous ballad in contrast to the raucous bebop romp “Ooh-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be” which follows. Gillespie is a showman and he takes the opportunity to have a little vocal fun before he takes off in one of his patented solos. “I Can’t Get Started,” most often associated with the trumpet of Bunny Berigan, gets a haunting sweet-toned treatment from Gillespie. The album ends with an almost 16-minute version of Gillespie’s near-Eastern vibed “Kush” from the Frankfurt gig. Schifrin, by the way, turns in one pounding solo towards the end of the track.

Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet is a worthwhile addition to the trumpeter’s canon. There is always something special about his live performances. They may not always achieve the perfection of studio recordings, but there is often something cold, even sterile, about that studied perfection. Live performance under the right circumstances is both warm and inviting. November 27, 1961, in Stuttgart and November 29 in Frankfurt had the right circumstances.
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