Giant Steps: Jazz Greats
Courtesy of Library of Congress.
True to his nickname, Dizzy Gillespie's professional and personal life was characterized by high energy and whirlwind speed. Influenced both by Louis Armstrong and by Afro-Cuban dance rhythms, Dizzy took trumpet playing to a new level by embracing fast-moving melodies and highly complex chord progressions. Gillespie was heavily involved in the evolution of bebop and collaborated with innovators such as Charlie Parker and Theolonious Monk. He also maintained a lifetime interest in big bands and led them on a number of occasions. Flamboyant and comedic, he became famous for playing with a bent horn and dramatically puffed-out cheeks. Gillespie's tireless energy won him a number of honors, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honor, an appointment as a French Commendaur des Artes et Lettres, and a duo performance with President Jimmy Carter on "Salt Peanuts" at the White House Jazz Festival in 1978.