Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band
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Jazz history is brought to life with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band every time they take the stage. Most of the band members are alumni from Gillespie's various ensembles, and now, they are living legends and among the most heralded jazz musicians of our time. Instead of headlining, as these band members almost always do, the likes of James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Roy Hargrove, and more appear on stage together, mixing Gillespie's playful antics with the intensity of a cut-throat blowing session. Egos are thrown out the window in favor of carrying on the music of a man they all loved. You can't hear a big band like this anywhere else! Of the band, Seth Rogovoy wrote "You could not have asked for a better ensemble of players to take on the challenge of reconstructing the style, wit and excitement of a Gillespie performance." History has produced its share of great artists and great people-John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was both. As a performer, he left behind an incredible record of innovation and inspiration. As a composer, a broad repository of musical masterpieces, and as a man, a legion of friends, colleagues and compatriots who remember him with the same degree of love and esteem they reserve for his work.
For Dizzy Gillespie, playing in a small combo was never enough. His artistry compelled him to seek and to create larger ensembles because as a composer and arranger, a big band was the ultimate vehicle for self-expression. Given that the majority of his career took place after 1950 when the big band era was over, it's especially notable that Dizzy Gillespie continued to create brilliant music using the grand-scale formats of jazz big band and orchestra right up to the end of his life in 1993.
The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is the direct descendant of these ventures and happily, the tradition lives on. Nurtured by Gillespie alumni, musical director, trombonist, and award winning arranger Slide Hampton, and executive director, producer, and bassist John Lee. The All-Star Big Band features some of Dizzy's closest compatriots: senior statesmen and NEA Jazz Masters, James Moody and Jimmy Heath, and veteran Gillespie alumni Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi, Cyrus Chestnut, and drummer extraordinaire Lewis Nash.
The rest of the band features some of the fastest rising next generation talents in jazz today including saxophonists Antonio Hart, Mark Gross and Gary Smulyan. Trombonists Steve Davis, Jason Jackson and Mike Dease. Trumpet virtuosos Greg Gisbert and Frank Greene, and Grammy nominated vocal sensation Roberta Gambarini. All of them band leaders, educators, and recording artists in their own right. Trombone virtuoso and NEA Jazz Master Slide Hampton, who first played with Dizzy's big band in 1957, had a long association and friendship with Dizzy. Together with NEA Jazz Master Paquito D`Rivera (who's often a special guest with the bands) Slide served as co-musical director of Dizzy's Grammy Award winning band the United Nation Orchestra.
Similarly, executive director John Lee had a close association with Dizzy, serving as his bassist for the last decade of Dizzy's life, in his small groups as well as the United Nation Orchestra and the 70th Anniversary Big Band. Lee also originated and continues to oversee and direct "Dizzy: The Man and The Music," the official concert and clinic program celebrating the life and work of the incomparable John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. The Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars Big Band's musical home would have to be New York's famed Blue Note Jazz Club, which was for many years Dizzy's favorite jazz club not only in New York City but also in the world.