Dizzy Gillespie
Afro


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
November 24th, 2006 | 22 replies | 5,478 views


Release Date: 1956 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Energetic, entertaining, and still very imperfect, Afro shows off Dizzy's infatuation with Afro-Cuban music.

I own one jazz shirt. It’s a Dizzy Gillespie shirt and a quite simple one. It shows a huge, blown up picture of Dizzy playing trumpet with his signature mile-wide cheeks. At school, I’ll often get reactions like “You know you have a black guy playing a trumpet on your shirt, right?” or “Why does it say Dizzy? Is he dizzy from making his cheeks like that?” I blow off the ignorance; I like the shirt. Dizzy Gillespie is an underappreciated jazz artist that really needs to be seen as more than just Charlie Parker’s trumpet accomplice. The two of them together pioneered bebop but Charlie gets much more credit. That might be because Dizzy immersed himself in other genres. He headed the Afro-Cuban movement, a small section of Latin jazz that hosts classics such as A Night in Tunisia and Manteca. This live album, drawing from two diverse performances, showcases Dizzy’s Afro-Cuban infatuation and brilliance.

Afro takes live performances from Dizzy and his big band as well as an obscure combo featuring Dizzy and a flute player named Alejandro Hernandez. The album starts with the big band performance, definitely the worse of the two sections. Dizzy’s big band only existed for a few years due to its terrible reputation and quality. Although possessing a great lineup of individual players, no one knew how to balance a band, everyone wailed to their highest point. And still, Dizzy played louder than all of them. The moments that call for a screaming lead trumpet and a huge sound underneath sound fantastic, but other than that, the performance comes across as sloppy, unrefined, and somewhat amateur. Hard to believe with musicians like Quincy Jones in the wings. The rhythm section makes the performance nearly fall apart a few times, such as in Manteca Theme. The drummer fails to establish a steady tempo until about halfway through the song, relying on the auxiliary congas to lay down the Latin groove. Once the groove gets going, the Latin feel is unmistakable. It continues into Contraste, equally groovy and probably the best track on the big band section, although Dizzy easily overshadows everything else playing. Eventually, it doesn’t matter since he takes a solo about halfway through the song. The groove and the great saxophone ambiance make Contraste fantastic and a true representation of the talent Dizzy’s big band possesses. These moments of brilliance, which also occur in the biggest sections of Rhumba-Finale, make the big band section worth listening to. If only the entire performance could reach that caliber.

The second half of the album, the final three tracks, finds Dizzy where he belongs, in a small and intimate jazz combo. Featuring a bass, piano, a few Latin percussionists, flute, and none other than Dizzy himself, the combo gives a quick summary of some Afro-Cuban classics. Opening with none other than A Night in Tunisia, arguably Dizzy’s most famous work, the combo immediately lays down one of the strongest Latin grooves ever heard on a recording. Instead of making the constant switch between swing and Latin, Dizzy takes the arrangement into a new direction, an entirely Latin song. He proves he knows the song’s ins and outs like no one else. His solo shows his incredible range and finger speed, screaming up and down all ranges of the trumpet. After a lighter and slower Con Alma, the band takes on the classic Caravan, which Duke Ellington brought to prominence in his heyday. Dizzy utilizes a mute as the piano and flute play the main theme of the song. Once again, the percussion groove shines, given a chance to shine in a nearly 2 minute feature. Dizzy throws down an even faster solo than in A Night in Tunisia without his mute, pushing the speed of his trumpet to its limits. Still, he manages to throw in extremely melodic moments, playing off of the main melody.

Despite some sloppiness and imperfections in Dizzy’s big band performance, Afro shows the pure energy and intensity of Afro-Cuban music. Every song possesses fantastic grooves, a relentless energy, and most of all Dizzy’s amazing trumpeting. His original compositions still stand out today as landmarks in music, being the premiere standards in Latin jazz. Gillespie gave a lot to the jazz world and only leaves a few of his own recordings behind, spending most of his recording time at the side of Charlie Parker. Still, his energetic style and compositions are timeless. Afro is a great listen and jazz fans should definitely consider taking a listen.

Recommended Tracks:
Contraste
A Night in Tunisia
Caravan



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user ratings (22)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Oddsen
November 24th 2006



1127 Comments


I own a couple Dizzy Gelspie albums. Hes a great trumpet player. About a year ago a jazz band I played in did A Night in Tunisia. I played the piano on it. It was really a fun song to play. Good job on the review. We need more jazz ones.

ohcleverhansyou
November 24th 2006



885 Comments


Dizzy! I haven't given bebop much of a try, just a little of the Bird and some of this. I guess I'm less into B.M (Before Miles) jazz. Decent review, but if over half the album sounded so chaotic and amateur, did it really deserve a 4? Were the last three tracks that good?

Zebra
Moderator
November 24th 2006



2647 Comments


Ha. Your introduction reminds me of my Frank Zappa review, cool. I tend to enjoy the stuff that you review, it's usually different from a lot of the stuff that I usually listen to so I might check this out even though I don't own many albums from the 50's.

AnyColour74
November 24th 2006



1054 Comments


Excellent review my friend. Just started to get into Dizzy this year courtesy of this history of rock and jazz class at my school, and he's now one of my favorite jazz artists. In ways, he's better than Miles Davis, but that is just me.

Zmev
November 24th 2006



983 Comments


Yeah I learned about him through history of jazz class. Manteca is a sweet song.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 24th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ha, yeah. I went to this jazz camp up at Penn State for bass and I was in the top jazz combo called the "Dizzy Gillespie combo". I knew nothing about jazz and pronounced it "Dizzy Jill-ess-pee."

AnyColour74
November 24th 2006



1054 Comments


Hmm, didn't know that Penn State had a jazz camp, considering I live relatively close to the main campus. Do you play upright or electric bass

Tv Party
November 24th 2006



98 Comments


Great review. Good album. I don't own it but I've heard it all the way through.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 24th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[quote=AnyColour74]Hmm, didn't know that Penn State had a jazz camp, considering I live relatively close to the main campus. Do you play upright or electric bass[/quote]

Yeah it's in the middle of July sometime. Check out the Penn State site. I play electric and I'm working on upright but I'm not as good at it as I am on electric. I plan on going to Governor's School this summer, so I won't be going to PSU.

AnyColour74
November 24th 2006



1054 Comments


That's pretty cool, I play upright and electric. Flawed, you kind of seem like the person I can relate to. Do you have AIM?

Zmev
November 24th 2006



983 Comments


everyone on mx is turnin' jazzzzzz

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 24th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well it's about time.

Two-Headed Boy
November 24th 2006



4527 Comments


This review earns kisses.

I need some more Jazz. My dad has a vast collection, so I've heard my fair share. Haven't heard any Gillespie, however.

AnyColour74
November 24th 2006



1054 Comments


THB, if you like Miles Davis, you'd like this. Might I also suggest Charlie Mingus

Zmev
November 24th 2006



983 Comments


Someone should review Maple Leaf Rag.

"Yeah, this guy sounds like a machine"

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 24th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[quote=Zebra]Ha. Your introduction reminds me of my Frank Zappa review, cool.[/quote]

Wow man, I really didn't mean to completely rip off your Hot Rats review.

The Jungler
November 24th 2006



4827 Comments


Excellent review, Big Band really isn't my thing, but the second half of this sounds really cool.

ohcleverhansyou
November 24th 2006



885 Comments


I enjoy some big band (Duke Ellington, Count Basie), but I'm more for the small groups also.

Intransit
November 24th 2006



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is pretty good. Pretty solid work on the review too.

Sepstrup
November 25th 2006



1563 Comments


I generally don't like reviews that start out explaining how stupid your class-/schoolmates are.



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