In the summer of 1956, the famed Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell arranged for Dizzy Gillespie to embark on a worldwide goodwill-ambassador tour sponsored by the State Department. Gillespie and an all-star big band featuring trumpeter Quincy Jones
, the late trombonist Melba Liston
, alto saxophonist Phil Woods
, and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson
performed in Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil to frenzied, beret-wearing fans. Recordings were made but they weren't commercially available and were played only for a select group of musicians before Gillespie's death in 1993. Now the sides have been released, showcasing Dizzy at his bebopping best. Energized by his in-the-pocket rhythm section featuring the underrated piano of Walter Davis Jr.
, bassist Nelson Boyd, and drummer Charlie Persip
, Gillespie launches into his routinely impossible, stratospheric solos on Tadd Dameron
's "Cool Breeze" and the Afro-Cubop numbers "A Night in Tunisia" and "Manteca." His renditions of the ballads "I Can't Get Started" and "Stella by Starlight" highlight his often-overlooked balladering voice, while the good-time jump tune "School Days" brings out the crowd-pleasing, dizzy side of Diz with zany vocals that translate into any language. --Eugene Holley Jr.