Continuing on our March Saga of All Dizzy All The Time, I want to share with you one of the truly delightful gems in the Pablo collection. The Gifted Ones is an example of some serious musical magic, bringing together the subject of our veneration with another Pablo stalwart, doyen, Olympian — Count Basie.
Bringing together Bop-Master Diz with Basie’s K.C. Jazz-Blues swing might have been as a mixture of oil and water but for two things: 1) that Dizzy spent plenty of time sharpening his teeth on the flesh of big band swing, (though it was his adventurous soloing, among other things, that bit him back when Cab Calloway fired him from the orchestra just two years after joining. Or maybe it was because he shivved Cab with a pocket knife and drew blood … hard to say, but it wasn’t terribly long after that before Dizzy began his emergence as one of the most inventive and important BeBop trumpeters ever finger a spit-valve).
… and 2) Basie plays so cool and laid back in order to give Dizzy the room to be dizzyingly dizzy.
Dizzy dials out a few accidentals here and there to make the communication between Basie’s piano and his horn happily harmonious while Count Basie’s heavy-swinging Kansas-City blues/jazz style – a huge presence in the Pablo catalog – is so elegantly understated that Dizzy could hardly have room to utter a mistake, even if he wanted to.
Bringing up and laying down the rhythm section are Pablo veterans Mickey Roker and Ray Brown.
The Gifted Ones shines for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it really just a perfectly prepared canvas onto which Dizzy is able to paint some of the more interesting and well-crafted improvisations – perhaps of his career. His combination of supremely swanky swagger with sudden, fire-breathing flurries is made completely Dizzy-fied by the always mischievous humor lurking beneath his lines (to wit: in the middle of the first cut, “Back to the Land,” he pulls the mouthpiece from his trumpet and cranks out this bizarrely beautiful solo using just the mouthpiece).
The Gifted Ones also contains one of the most interesting variation of the Louis Armstrong fave, “St. James Infirmary” – a version of which I place, with no apologies, on the same level as Miles’ version of “Nature Boy” with Charles Mingus, Elvin Jones, Britt Woodman, and Teddy Charles (Debut Records, 1955).
A must-have Pablo, and a must-have Dizzy, for all the best possible reasons.