DIZZY GILLESPIE Biography - Musicians


Biography » musicians » dizzy gillespie


Name: John Birks Gillespie                                                         
Born: October 21, 1917 Cheraw, South Carolina, U.S.                                 
Died: January 6, 1993 Englewood, NJ                                                 
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993) was an         
American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, singer, and composer. He was born in Cheraw,   
South Carolina, the youngest of nine children. Dizzie's father was a local         
bandleader, so instruments were made available to Dizzy. He could play the piano   
at age 4. Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development   
of bebop and modern jazz.                                                           
In addition to featuring in these epochal moments in bebop, he was instrumental     
in founding Afro-Cuban jazz, the modern jazz version of what early-jazz pioneer     
Jelly Roll Morton referred to as the "Spanish Tinge". Gillespie was a trumpet       
virtuoso and gifted improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge     
but adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unknown in jazz. In addition   
to his instrumental skills, Dizzy's beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat     
singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were       
essential in popularizing bebop, which was originally regarded as threatening       
and frightening music by many listeners raised on older styles of jazz. He had     
an enormous impact on virtually every subsequent trumpeter, both by the example     
of his playing and as a mentor to younger musicians.                               
He also used a trumpet whose bell was bent at a 45 degree angle rather than a       
traditional straight trumpet. According to Gillespie's autobiography, this was     
originally the result of accidental damage caused during a job on January 6,       
1953, but the constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the           
instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect. Gillespie's biographer Alyn Shipton     
writes that Gillespie likely got the idea when he saw a similar instrument in       
1937 in Manchester, England while on tour with the Teddy Hill Orchestra.           
Gillespie came across an English trumpeter who was using such an instrument         
because his vision was poor and the horn made reading music easier. According to   
this account (from British journalist Pat Brand) Gillespie was able to try out     
the horn and the experience led him, much later, to commission a similar horn       
for himself. Whatever the origins of Gillespie's upswept trumpet, by June, 1954,   
Gillespie was using a professionally manufactured horn of this design, and it       
was to become a visual trademark for him for the rest of his life.