Dizzy’s Big 4 by Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Mickey Roker

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Legendary jazz producer and label owner Norman Granz formed Pablo Records during the early 1970s, just about a decade after he sold his Verve Label. One of the artists he quickly signed was trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. They had collaborated on a number of projects in the past. Granz like to pair him with different musicians and record the results. He continued that approach by bringing Gillespie, bassist Ray Brown, guitarist Joe Pass, and drummer Mickey Roker into a Los Angeles record studio, September 17 and 19, 1974. The results were released as Dizzy’s Big 4, which has now been reissued with two bonus tracks as a part of the Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series.

Guitarist Joe Pass appeared on a number of Pablo releases and his work was usually the glue that bonded the various musicians together and so it is here, especially since there is no keyboardist to fill in and carry the sound.

Three of the seven original tracks are Gillespie compositions. “Frelimo” begins the album on a light-hearted note as each musician establishes his territory in this eight minute offering. “Be Bop” is one of Gillespie’s best known compositions, which is highlighted by its complicated structures. He just carries the song along with solo bursts of his trumpet. “Birks’ Works” is a nearly nine minute stroll that allows each musician to solo.

Other highlights are “Hurry Home,” which is a show case for bassist Brown and “Russian Lullaby,” with a number of tempo changes and a sweet Pass solo on the original and the added bonus alternate take.

Dizzy’s Big 4 remains one of Gillespie’s better small group works. It brought together four different but talented musicians who all enjoyed long careers. They managed to produce an excellent piece of work that still sounds fresh four decades later.

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