CD review

Dave Douglas: “Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie at Zero Gravity”

Dave Douglas: Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie at Zero Gravity
(Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1076. CD Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

In this album Dave Douglas pays tribute to fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.  An important strand of Douglas’ work has been to honour major figures in the music such as Wayne Shorter (Stargazer, 1997), Booker Little (In Our Lifetime  , 1995) and Mary Lou Williams. (Soul on Soul, 2000) . When it came to Gillespie, Douglas was determined not just to revisit tunes associated with him, but to find a mix of material that would capture something of the character of his music. As he has described it in the liner note, ‘the music comes from taking a deep dive into his work, and thinking why it is so important for me, and how can I reflect that in a way that has something to do with where we are now in 2020’.

The album has achieved these aims in particularly impressive style.  The selection of material brings mostly original material written for the tribute that has the character of Gillespie’s music together with a couple of tunes penned by Gillespie himself.  Thus we have Mondrian, an original tune recalling the painter’s liking of jazz and early bebop in the 1940s, Cadillac, another original that captures something of Gillespie’s Sweet Low, Sweet Cadillac tune, and Con Almazan that combines a tribute to the sextet’s pianist Fabian Almazan with a nod to Gillespie’s often revisited tune Con Alma.

The two tunes of Gillespie’s that the sextet plays are the well known Manteca, originally a big band number co-written by Gillespie with Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller, but here played with a focus on its rhythms which are played brilliantly by bass player Carmen Rothwell and drummer Joey Baron, and Pickin’ The Cabbage, a tune written by Gillespie for the Cab Calloway Orchestra, which highlights Gillespie’s irrepressible sense of humour.

The sextet interpreting the material is a top group with a double trumpet front line.  Gillespie was always concerned to help build the careers of younger trumpeters, such as Lee Morgan, Jon Faddis and Clifford Brown. Here Douglas continues that tradition by sharing the playing of the heads and the soloing with Dave Adewumi, a young player from New Hampshire with a Nigerian heritage, whom he had first encountered at a Juillard composition class.  There is some wonderful interaction between the two of them, without there ever being any sense of competing.  Matthew Stevens is on guitar, a player who has been a force on the New York scene for some time now.  He provides some beautiful voicings in the ensemble passages, and solos very effectively on most of the tracks.  He and pianist Fabian Almazan combine very well and the rhythmic drive of Carmen Rothwell and Joey Baron is strong throughout.  I have always loved Baron’s drumming and the way his solo on Pickin’ The Cabbage contributed to the subtle humour of the track really holds the attention.

This is a fine tribute to one of the greats of jazz led by one of today’s major figures.           

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