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Dizzy Gillespie: 'Roy and Diz'


A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie. Murray Horwitz, what brought these two guys together?

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Well, first of all, I guess you would have to say that it was Roy Eldridge who brought the two of them together. The famous story that Dizzy Gillespie always told was that when he was a teenager, listening to the Teddy Hill Big Band, he heard this guy playing trumpet — it was Roy Eldridge — and he said, "That's the job I want."

SPELLMAN: And he got it, too.

HORWITZ: He did get that job, that's true, after Roy Eldridge moved on. And for a while they were real rivals. I mean, these were men who, in the cutting contests where musicians dueled each other, were both always out for blood. They hooked up as rivals, but then eventually Dizzy Gillespie was able to convince Roy Eldridge that he was in awe of him and that as he once said, "I think of Roy Eldridge. No you, no me."


SPELLMAN: On all of these cuts when they are playing together and against each other, how do you distinguish one from the other?

HORWITZ: Well, that's a good question, A.B., and you know what, it's really hard to do. But listening to jazz is not a game. You don't just try to figure out who's playing or where they are in the composition. You have to let all that go at a certain point and relax and listen to the music. And beautiful music it is on this CD.

There is, however, a ballad medley, where the liner notes tell you — the original liner notes, if you can read that fine print — who is playing exactly which ballad. And if you listen to that, it's a really good musical exercise in listening. You'll be able to tell throughout the whole CD, the different character of Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet and personality, as opposed to the personality and trumpet playing of Roy Eldridge.


SPELLMAN: And, this rhythm section, Murray Horwitz, is not exactly local talent.

HORWITZ: Not local talent at all. Oscar Peterson's the pianist, Herb Ellis is the guitarist, Ray Brown the bassist, and Louis Bellson, the drummer. And you couldn't get much better than that in 1954 when this was all put together by the producer Norman Granz.


SPELLMAN: And, so for your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, we're recommending Roy and Diz. It's on the Verve record label. For NPR Jazz, I'm A.B. Spellman.

HORWITZ: And, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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