Saturday, July 11, 2015
Dizzy Gillespie – “Oro, Incensi0, y Mirra” from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (1975 Pablo)

Dizzy Gillespie 1960 Gilles Pétard Collection

Dizzy Gillespie 2016:
Running whether he gets the nomination or not.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance Dizzy Gillespie had on the world of jazz, pioneering as he did the Afro-Cuban jazz sound in his 1940s collaborations with Chano Pozo. The lore around that time is absolutely electrifying (not to mention his later adoption of the Bahai faith and his rhythm stick). I picked up Lady Be Good in a discount bin in my days as a nascent jazz fan.

I picked up other albums later on, and none captured my attention quite as well. I think for me Diz was at his best during that early period, before wandering into what I would call (to the chagrin of many, no doubt) schmaltzy big band territory (see Maynard Ferguson, for example).

That’s sort of what’s happening here. “Oro, Incenso, y Mirra” is a fifteen-minute odyssey that sounds like what might happen if the Fania All-Stars and Weather Report got together to cook something up for the big band hour on your local community jazz radio station. Which is to say that, despite my reluctance to go all the way there with the big band thing most times, there are some real incredible moments here, sometimes involving the horns, sometimes the real heavy-ass percussion, sometimes the synthesizer (an instrument that, apparently, Diz hadn’t been in the same room as prior to recording this track), but there are some real transcendent moments buried in this thing.

This from

Here we have a summit meeting late in the careers of the pioneering titans of Afro-Cuban jazz: Dizzy Gillespie fronting the Machito orchestra on trumpet, with Mario Bauza as music director, alto saxophonist/clarinetist, and organizing force, and Chico O’Farrill contributing the compositions and arrangements. This could have been just a nostalgic retro gathering 25 years after the fact, but instead, these guys put forth an ambitious effort to push the boundaries of the idiom. The centerpiece is a 15-minute trumpet concerto for Gillespie called “Oro, Incienso y Mirra,” where O’Farrill melts dissonant clusters, electric piano comping, and synthesizer decorations together with hot Afro-Cuban rhythms into a coherent, multi-sectioned tour de force. Gillespie, who had apparently never been in the same room with synthesizers before, is magnificent as he peels off one patented bebop run after another over Machito‘s band and in the gaps between. There is also an equally sophisticated suite of O’Farrillpieces grouped under the title “Three Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods,” which mixes rock elements into the rhythms. Parts of “Pensativo” sound as if O’Farrill had been carefully listening to Santana, the teacher learning from the student, as it were. It adds up to a paltry 32 minutes of music, yet one can forgive the short length, this being all there is of a historic recording session.

I’ll confess to you that I don’t know the first thing about either Bauza or O’Farrill, though I suspect that the recoring session alluded to above was for “Manteca.” I will say that the moments in this recording which are not transcendent are stark reminds that this was, in fact, recorded in 1975, and that can get distracting. The other moments, however, make it worthwhile.

It’s not the vintage Gillespie that I always want to go back to, but, being Gillespie, one could hardly call it garbage.


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