Arguably, this is as much Lalo Schifrin’s album as it is Dizzy’s, in that the gifted young Argentinian pianist wrote and arranged this extended work in 1958, when aged just 26. But, it would take another two years before someone pressed the record button. While on some mid-1950s recording sessions, Dizzy didn’t always extend himself, Gillespiana proves quite the reverse.
From the opening ‘Prelude’ right through to ‘Toccata’, by way of ‘Blues’, ‘Panamericana’ and ‘Africana’, his commitment to the project is total. Indeed, this is generally considered to be the best album Diz recorded for Norman Granz – no argument there. It’s nothing short of dazzling, with Schifrin’s concept of having Diz’s regular quintet continually spurred on by the thoroughly dynamic punch provided by a blazing 12-piece brass section plus tuba and a trio of fiery Latin percussionists. Overall, it was a sound that greatly informed Schifrin’s future work in the movies. For once, the bonus tracks added here are, ‘er, a bonus! Just nine days after the studio recordings Dizzy turned up in Paris with four members of the original session: Wright, Lalo, Davis and Lampkin who, with great vigour, performed four of the five sections of Gillespiana, before an ecstatic audience of Parisians. Without question, one of this year’s most worthy reissues.
– Roy Carr