John Birks Gillespie, commonly referred to as Dizzy Gillespie, was an American born trumpeter and composer. Born in Cheraw, South Carolina on 21 October 1917, Gillespie is regarded as the proponent of the earlier Bebop music scene, and together with his complex trumpeting and rhythmic sophistication, became one of the best trumpeters of all time. Gillespie’s style has often been referred to as unequaled, simply because of the complex nature of his musical delivery. Adhering to a powerful blend of Jazz, Bebop and African Cuban Jazz, Gillespie became a truly gifted and inspiring trumpeter. Such was his class, originality and ingenuity that he went on to inspire several future musicians, such as Miles Davis, Jon Faddis, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan and Chuck Mangione.
Although Gillespie began playing the piano and later the trombone at an early age, the desire to become a Jazz musician only came after hearing his role model, Roy Eldridge play on the radio. After acquiring a scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, he became affiliated with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, later joining the orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill. His first recording came with the latter, naming it “King Porter Stomp”. Four years down the line, Gillespie switched boats to the Cab Calloway’s orchestra, producing one of his earliest compositions, “Pickin’ the Cabbage”. The earliest sign of the rising of Bebop and modern Jazz was when Gillespie joined the Earl Hines Band in 1943. Although they did not record any tunes during their time together, Gillespie’s later works including songs such as “Groovin’ High”, “Woody ‘n’ You” and “Salt Peanuts” were clearly different from the popular music played in the time. Examples of unconventional base lines and unusual rhythmic patterns were looked down upon by the audience, and Bebop had a difficult time making it into the mainstream music. While Bebop took it’s time rising up the ranks, Gillespie’s desire to lead a large band came true around 1946 when he put together his first ever large band. Their main aim was to popularize Bebop and modern Jazz. In 1956, Gillespie also toured the Middle East, where his music was extremely well-received, and so the journey of Modern Jazz had begun.
During the late 1940s, Gillespie had also popularized African-Cuban music, performing with well-known musicians such as Miriam Makeba and Mario Bauza. Featuring new rhythmic patterns and an interesting element of salsa dancing, African-Cuban jazz was affiliated with Bebop at the time. Some of his most important contributions to African-Cuban music were singles such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo”. Gillespie’s other contributions of the 1960s, including albums such as Gillespiana (1960) and The Cool World (1964) are examples of just a few efforts that revolutionized Jazz music. After being inducted in the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1960, he did multiple performances and experiments with the direction his music had been taking. Towards the end of his career, he formed a firm solidification of all the genres his music had been considered to be, amalgamating them in a single layer of classic Jazz music. Gillespie gave close to 300 performances in 1989 in different cities around the world, together with compiling two albums during the same year. However, due to complications with Pancreatic Cancer, he passed away at the age of 75 in 1993.