JAZZ: Scott DeVeaux, W.W. Norton & Company


So in a way Dizzy Gillespie, if you think about him later, he's bringing in Latin influences . . . so he's sort of experimenting with bebop as a break from swing and he's, is he just open to new influences?

He's very interested in Latin music. Mario Bauzá, someone he hung out with in the 1930s – and I think he just began to realize that that was his particular rhythmic thing. He loved the way that sounded . . . [Deveaux demonstrates] that's right about 1942, Night in Tunisia, that was the, you know, very early on in Dizzy Gillespie's career. The other thing about Dizzy Gillespie that I think is really fascinating – we think of bebop as a small group music. But any chance Dizzy Gillespie got to create a big band, he immediately went for it because I think he thought of that as being – in some ways it's like the Swing Era. As soon as he gets a chance, he creates something like a swing band.

It's not really a swing band because it doesn't really sound like one, but it's the same instrumentation. That is what he really wanted to do.

It wasn't really very easy for him to do that – I think that there are just a couple of times during the 1950s that he was touring with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and in some cases with the State Department being the main reason he got put together, because that was the group that they decided to send overseas to try to convey to the rest of the world the idea that America's not such a bad place. We have this jazz music and you can listen to it. And Dizzy Gillespie said, "As long as you don't mind me telling them something about what's going on in this country." And they kind of played that bargain and said ok.

But it was that particular combination of stuff in the 1950s that I think sort of helped Dizzy Gillespie to stay alive musically, I mean stay alive mentally as he was doing that kind of stuff. I think he was as surprised as anyone else that bebop really has come to become the center of jazz history as we now think of it because, you know, I think his mind was on all these other things, but as soon as he realized that he said, yes, indeed, that is the time when we really created this stuff and I'm happy to be one [of] the elder statesmen of this music, one of the people who helped to create it. Especially now, after 1955, that Bird is not around.