Groovin' High

Groovin' High : The Life of Dizzy Gillespie

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Declared a "national treasure" by the White House in 1990, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie is not only considered a great musician but also a major innovator in the jazz world. While his first and foremost claim to fame is helping to create the style known as bebop, Gillespie also did much to establish the inclusion of Latin American elements in jazz and was partially responsible for the inception of both Afro-Cuban jazz and bossa nova. Covering Dizzy's days as a flashy trumpet player in the swing bands of the 1930s, the worldwide fame and adoration he earned through a State Department-backed tour of his big band in the 1950s, and the many recordings and performances which defined a career that ran up to the early 1990s, this book traces the path and progress of an extraordinary - and most exploratory - American more

Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 157.48 x 233.68 x 33.02mm | 771.1g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195091329
  • 9780195091328

About Alyn Shipton

Alyn Shipton presents jazz programs for the BBC and is a jazz critic for The Times in London. For many years he was a music publisher, seeing into print the autobiographies of numerous jazz musicians including Barney Bigard, Buck Clayton, Andy Kirk and Rex Stewart. He has written biographies of Fats Waller and Bud Powell, and has edited the memoirs of Danny Barker and Doc more

Review Text

London Times jazz writer Shipton tenders a new look at the life of legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. There have been, as Shipton himself points out in his preface, several other biographies of the musician (born John Birks Gillespie), as well as an autobiography that Shipton says, "has often been hailed as a landmark in oral history." So why yet another examination of the life and music of the Cheraw, South Carolina, native? After posing that same question, Shipton, who also presents jazz programs for the BBC and has written biographies of Fats Waller and Bud Powell, responds, "The answer is to some extent all these books took their cues from him as to the shape and pattern of his life - I began to realize that, without in any way detracting from Dizzy's immense achievement, there was more to be discovered about the influences on him." Shipton does indeed concentrate extensively on Gillespie's early influences, sometimes at the expense of Gillespie's personal life. For example, even though he promises to explore Gillespie's long-standing extramarital affair with songwriter Connie Bryson, which resulted in an illegitimate daughter, Jeanie Bryson, Shipton doesn't get into that until nearly 300 pages into the book. Given that Jeanie was Gillespie's only offspring, despite a successful marriage of over 50 years to his wife-manager, Lorraine, more attention should be focused on their father-daughter relationship (Gillespie did provide financial support, although he never admitted publicly that she was his daughter). That Shipton would gloss over the rich terrain of Gillespie's personal life to concentrate on his music is almost commendable in this era of sensationalized biographies. However, he should not have promised to explore these issues if he was not prepared to follow up on them. Tom between the morally upright educated music book and the more sensationalistic material of his subject's life, Shipton ends up with an unbalanced portrait that fails to satisfy. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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