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Summary Article: Dizzy Gillespie (1917–1993)
From African American Almanac
Trumpeter, Bandleader

Born on October 21, 1917, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie received his early musical training in his native Cheraw, South Carolina. After moving to Philadelphia in 1935 and gaining more professional experience there, he joined the Teddy Hill Band, replacing his early idol Roy “Little Jazz” Eldridge.

Gillespie toured Europe with Teddy Hill in 1939, and when he returned to New York to play with Cab Calloway, his bop experimentation was already beginning to develop and his career as arranger began. Gillespie recorded his first “bop” solo with Les Hite in 1942. After working with Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Charlie Barnett, Earl Hines, and others, he joined Billy Eckstine's band in 1944. Gillespie and Charlie Parker were the cofounders of the revolutionary movement in jazz during the 1940s—the phenomenon known as bop or bebop. Eckstine, whose band at one time included both Gillespie and Parker, defined Parker's role more as instrumentalist, while Gille-spie acted more as writer and arranger. Whatever their particular contributions were, however, it cannot be disputed that the sum total of their ideas brought about a change in jazz that continues to be felt today. Gillespie and Parker released bebop recordings Shaw Nuff, Salt Peanuts, and Hot House, and in 1946 Gillespie split from Parker and started his own band.

Gillespie's signature look of horn-rimmed glasses, beret, goatee, and the trumpet with the bell angled upward at a 45-degree angle was established by 1948. This was complimented by his puffed-out checks and rhythmic flair. Gillespie toured Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America with big bands and quintets subsidized by the U.S. State Department. He ultimately became a revered elder statesman of jazz. His dizzying speed and ingenuity along with his use of African clave in swing compositions have made him a true jazz great and many of his compositions jazz standards. Gillespie died on January 6, 1993, in Englewood, New Jersey

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