1982 Interview with Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie

Interviewer: What’s it take to make a great trumpet player?

Dizzy Gillespie: (long pause) Well, the first thing is to be a master shit detector. Detect what is valid and what is not.

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Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

Dizzy is a genius and I love to hear him talk about music, his life, improvisation, his horn. You can see and hear the joy he takes in life, and at the same time, he can be serious and thoughtful . The interviewer however, (I think it’s Charlie Rose) is both patronizing and insensitive at times, and unable to take the conversation to the next level (or the next 3) where it should go. Dizzy, ambassador that he is, breezes over this and speaks to the heart of the questions earnestly. So when you listen, focus on Dizzy. If the interviewer gets to you, use his example to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes. For a more interesting interview (audio only) in which Dizzy plays both trumpet and piano, check out his talk with Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz.

Dizzy was an actual ambassador, of course. In 1956 (26 years before this interview), Dizzy led a multi-racial big band (a big deal in 1956) that toured the world, spreading the music and serving as a U.S. cultural ambassador. He went to Cuba to do the same thing in 1977, the first US citizen to do so for 17 years.

Dizzy was also responsible for elevating and encouraging Latin Jazz to new levels. That Cuban influence was around since Jazz’s birth (Jelly Roll Morton called it the Latin tinge), but it was Dizzy who took a deep interest in it (he plays conga, too, and did so on The Muppet Show) and early on he hired Chano Pozo for his band, a phenomenal Cuban conguero.

There is so much great music from this wonderful man that, if you’re not familiar with him, can be overwhelming. One of my favorite albums of any style, any musician, any era, is the 3rd disc of the compilation Dizzy’s Diamonds (the other 2 discs are also fantastic), which highlights his Afro-Cuban stuff, including Manteca, one of his most famous tunes. Links to all that stuff are below the interviews.

Hope you like it. Have fun and good luck with your practice.

Selected Dizzy recordings (the top 3 in my opinion):

  • Dizzy’s Diamonds (CD, mp3) Selected Tracks:
  • Diz & Getz (with Oscar Peterson (p), Herb Ellis (g), Ray Brown (b), Max Roach (d))
  • Sonny Side Up (with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt on tenor sax)

Books By & About Dizzy:

Dizzy on Video

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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