In his memoir, To Be or Not to Bop, Dizzy Gillespie said of the jazz orchestra he formed in 1946, “We wanted to sound in the same idiom as the small bebop unit with Charlie Parker”–in other words, to transfer the advanced harmonies, cubist rhythms, off-kilter melodic lines, and (most important) the intimate fire of the five- or six-piece bop group to the full 17-piece jazz orchestra. In a way, this was an atavistic attempt, since one of bebop’s innovations was to streamline the sound of jazz via the lithe flexibility of the small combo. But to much of America in 1946, jazz and the large ensemble still went hand in hand, and Gillespie’s big band helped establish bebop as the music of the future. Gillespie’s band displayed incredible drive and abandon, with dense and swinging charts and several tunes that introduced many listeners to authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms. In addition, the band starred such exciting newcomers as vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the great tenor soloist James Moody, and baritone saxist Cecil Payne, all of whom will appear in this 50th-anniversary re-creation of one of jazz’s most audacious and exciting experiments. This reconstruction includes a number of Chicago ringers–trumpeter Orbert Davis and pianist Jodie Christian among them–and a handful of New York’s finest (including saxophonist Dick Oatts and drummer Lewis Nash), all directed by trumpeter Jon Faddis. Faddis has an uncanny ability to mimic every aspect of Gillespie’s once revolutionary and still daunting style, but at his appearance in Chicago a year ago, he played with a command of the horn–and an independence from Gillespie’s influence–that left me convinced I had just heard the world’s greatest jazz trumpeter. Faddis has also earned plaudits as a skilled and precise bandleader, and his participation could well make this one of the Chicago Jazz Festival’s all-time highlights. Friday, 8:55 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 774-3315.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Jon Faddis, by Marc PoKempner.