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Jazz Caliente: The Dizzy Gillespie Centennial Show

Dizzy Gillespie plays his trumpet on the main stage during the Monterey Jazz Festival in Sept. 1990
Eric Risberg
Dizzy Gillespie plays his trumpet on the main stage during the Monterey Jazz Festival in Sept. 1990

Saturday Jazz Caliente is all about Dizzy Gillespie this week, to honor the brilliant trumpeter's contributions to Latin Jazz on his 100th birthday.  

Dizzy's attraction to Afro-Cuban music started in the late 1930s, and he was encouraged by his friend and band-mate in both the Chick Webb and the Cab Calloway orchestras, Cuban-born multi-instrumentalist Mario Bauzá.   

From 1941 to 1976, Bauzá was the music director for his brother-in-law's band, Machito and his Afro-Cubans.  That band was the first to feature jazz arrangements and solos with Afro-Cuban forms and percussion.

After Diz firmly established the jazz style known as bebop (with compatriots Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk), he went on to explore what we now call "world music."  In 1947, Mario Bauzá introduced him to Cuban conga drum master Chano Pozo, who then joined Dizzy's big band. 

Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie, 1948
Credit Allan Grant
Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie, 1948

Dizzy and Chano hit it off musically, despite differences in culture and language. Chano did not speak English and Dizzy did not speak Spanish, but they both spoke the language of music that has roots in Africa.  Together they wrote Latin Jazz tunes that introduced Afro-Cuban sounds to main-stream Americans, and those songs are still favorites today.

We'll hear plenty of Dizzy on Saturday Jazz Caliente this week, as well as tribute performances by the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Stars and a star-studded jam in Miami.

Here's Dizzy's Dream Band from 1982 at Lincoln Center with the most famous Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo composition, "Manteca."  Look for Dizzy's protégé Jon Faddis on trumpet, conguero Candido Camero, the recently departed drummer Grady Tate, saxophonists Paquito D' Rivera and Jimmy Heath, and trombonist Melba Liston.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.  The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.