John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was a popular jazz trumpeter, singer and composer born on October 21, 1917, and died on January 6, 1993 (Watrous). He was last born in the family of nine children and spent most of his early life in Cheraw, South Carolina (Watrous). His father, James Gillespie was a bandleader and usually kept instruments at home where he learned to play piano and trumpets. Besides his father, Dizzy drew a lot inspiration from his idol Roy Eldridge and borrowed from his style of play.
In 1935, Gillespie joins his first professional job at only 18 years with Frank Fairfax Orchestra (Watrous). He then joined Edgar Hayes’ orchestra before moving to Teddy Hill where he replaced Frankie Newton as a trumpet player. Gillespie’s musical career picked up under Teddy Hill where he recorded his first song, “King Porter Stomp” (Watrous). In 1939, he moved to Cab Calloway’s orchestra with which he recorded “Pickin’ the Cabbage” a year later.
Gillespie is credited with popularizing bebop and introducing rhythmic, and harmonic layers to jazz music (Watrous). Initially, bebop was only played in the bars thus limiting its audience. However, Gillespie made the first bebop recording in 1945 introducing it to the mainstream media (Burkholder and Grout). Additionally, he let one his small groups to perform the music in New York’s Town Hall concert held on June 22, 1945. The concert introduced bebop to larger audience beginning the jazz revolution (James). His other compositions like “Salt Peanuts”, “Woody ‘n’ You”, and “Groovin’ High” were all different rhythmically and harmonically with popular swings at the time (Watrous). In addition, he introduced instruments like bent horn which had unique sounds compared to ordinary trumpet. In essence, he was a revolutionary musician who introduced a new concept into jazz music.
In conclusion, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie had a significant contribution to the growth of jazz music. He is credited with popularizing bebop which is the origin of modern jazz. Besides, he introduced new rhythms and instruments like bent horn to the music.
Burkholder, J. Peter and Donald Jay Grout. A History of Western Music: Ninth International Student Edition. WW Norton & Company., 2014.
James, Conyers Jr L., ed. African American jazz and rap: social and philosophical examinations of Black expressive behavior. McFarland, 2015.
Watrous, Peter. Dizzy Gillespie, Who Sounded Some of Modern Jazz’s Earliest Notes, Dies at 75. 7 January 1993. 11 November 2018. <https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1021.html>.