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Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie Paperback – March 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It's been 60 years since Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Kenny Clarke, and a handful of other bebop pioneers reinvented the art of jazz improvisation, and in those six decades, Parker--thanks to both his virtuosity and his premature heroin-induced death--has achieved near-mythic status in the minds of jazz lovers. Maggin, in this long-overdue, full-dress biography, reestablishes Gillespie's premier role in not one but two jazz revolutions--the bebop movement and the development of Latin jazz. He capably traces Gillespie's life from its beginnings in the racist South of the 1920s through the trumpeter's musical internship in various big bands, and on to his emergence, with Parker, in New York's Fifty-second Street nightclubs as the standard-bearer of what was then known as modern jazz. Equally important, Maggin gives plenty of space to Gillespie's signature work with his own big band--not a format favored by most beboppers--and his continual evolution over a 57-year career. It isn't all flatted fifths and rhythmic innovation, however; the full force of Gillespie's mercurial personality shines throughout this important contribution to American musical history. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Donald L. Maggin is the author of Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz. A writer and businessman, he has produced jazz concerts by such artists as Max Roach, Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Roland Hanna, Eubie Blake, and Roberta Flack. He was a board member of the American Jazz Orchestra, served in the Carter White House for three years, is an editor of the literary journal The Reading Room, and is a trustee of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; Reprint edition (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060559217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060559212
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,489,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Epperson on June 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Obviously, the two books to compare this work with are Dizzy's own 1979 "To Be or Not to Bop" and Alyn Shipton's 1999 "Groovin' High." Dizzy's book was a disjointed, subjective, sometimes annoying, but deeply insightful oral history. Shipton's book was a straightforward bio that attempted to avoid the "he recorded this, then he recorded that" syndrome by alternating chronological chapters with evaluations of the recordings available from each period in the previous chapter. A good idea, but a lack of specific enough information as to recording dates, locations and labels defeated the purpose.

You won't miss anything if you choose either Maggin's or Shipton's book. Shipton covers the pre-bop/pre WW II period more, while Maggin gives a deeper discussion of Dizzy's incredibly fertile late 50's and early 60's period. If you are not one hundred percent sure what bop is, or why Charlie Parker or Theloneous Monk are so important, Maggin's book is better, because he breaks the story to explain these points without being patronizing. He does start to dip into the "recorded this, recorded that" syndrome in the latter decades of Dizzy's life, but it doesn't get really bad. Overall, Maggin's book reads a little smoother, a little better. What surprises me the most is that during the six years between Shipton's and Maggin's book, absolutely nothing new seems to have come out, not even in the ongoing legal dispute over royalties between Dizzy's widow Lorraine and jazz vocalist Jeanne Bryson, who claims to be his daughter by another woman. (Both Shipton and Maggin conclude that more probably than not, she is.)

In any case, read either Shipton's book or Maggin's. Then, once you know the basic whos, whats, wheres and whens, beg, borrow or let yourself get ripped off for a used copy of Diz's own autobiography, which is where the REAL fun is!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. R. Price on April 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the most revealing (because best researched), most fascinating, and best written biography about Dizzy Gillespie and his times yet available. Uniquely informative musical explanations of Dizzy's contribitions to be-bop and his use of Afro-Cuban elements in jazz, propelling that music from the Swing Era into jazz of today and tomorrow. Also presents the social and historical context of Dizzy's story, from cotton picking in Cheraw,SC to world renown and jazz immortality. Only thing not explained, because it's unexplainable: how and why he was gifted with and then powerfully developed such prodigious talent -- the Mozart of jazz!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Bruce on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dizzy Gillespie was truly blessed. Not only with an amazing talent and the ability that allowed him to grasp and expand on the concepts of harmony and rhythm, but by the women in his life who made his success possible. It began with his mother, who after the death of Dizzy's abusive dad when the boy was only 9, worked long, hard hours as a seamstress, laundress, and house cleaner to provide for her children. Then there was Dizzy's third grade teacher who realized he had special talent and encouraged his musicality and eventually recruited him for the school band. Next it was a student nurse at the Laurinberg Institute, who lobbied for his admission to the Institute that was noted for its two commercial bands and where Dizzy got a first-class musical education. There was the daughter of the Institute's owners who, in her free time, taught Dizzy the intricacies of the piano. This became an important instrument to Dizzy's success, as he was now able to work out new and challenging harmonies at the keyboard. And further, because of his ability to play piano and read music, he was one of the few be-boppers of his generation who was able to chart the music they were creating, without which much of the music probably would not have survived. Finally came sweet Lorraine, whom Dizzy met in 1937 at a time when he was only able to obtain occasional band work. After their meeting, Dizzy hit financial bottom, and when Lorraine discovered him begging for money for food, she began to help him. Soon they moved in together and were married within three years, and until the end of his life, 53 years later, she provided support and financial stability. Dizzy was a spendthrift who would have kept the family broke if Lorraine had not stepped in and taken over the finances of both Dizzy and his bands.Read more ›
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