Night in Tunisia: The Very Best of Dizzy Gillespie
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2006, Volume 13, #8
Written by John Metzger
Trying to distill the monumental legacy of Dizzy Gillespie into a single-disc, 14-track collection is certainly no easy feat. Considering that it focuses upon a mere 3 ˝-year segment of a career that spanned more than half of a century, there’s little doubt that Night in Tunisia: The Very Best of Dizzy Gillespie is extremely limited in its scope. Nevertheless, the period of time from 1946 through 1949 was an exciting (and liberating) era for jazz as well as for the fabled trumpeter and composer. Not only was he beginning to establish himself as a bandleader in his own right, but also the seeds that he had planted through his work with Earl Hines, Charlie Parker, and Coleman Hawkins had begun to blossom within the burgeoning bebop movement. A cover of Babs Brown’s Oop-Pop-A-Da demonstrates the influence that Louis Armstrong had upon Gillespie’s style, while other songs — such as the playfully inventive Two Bass Hit; the frenetic, Thelonious Monk-penned 52nd Street Theme; and the stellar title track (on which Gillespie unleashes a positively explosive solo) — provide a captivating glimpse at the evolution of the sub-genre.
As the rest of the jazz community was catching up to Gillespie, however, he again began to move in bold, new directions, and the latter half of Night in Tunisia: The Very Best of Dizzy Gillespie is devoted to his early, pioneering pursuits in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz. In fact, the set contains six of the eight studio recordings that he made with percussionist Chano Pozo — including the propulsive Manteca as well as the incendiary pairing of Cubana Be and Cubana Bop. These tracks (along with Stan Kenton’s concurrent explorations) essentially brought the groundbreaking style of Mario Bauza and Machito to a much wider audience. Although jazz aficionados likely have all of the material contained on Night in Tunisia: The Very Best of Dizzy Gillespie within their archives, the outing undoubtedly is an invaluable asset to the collections of more casual fans.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box