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As any Jazz aficionado knows, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)
was one of, if not THE founding father of Bebop. Along with alto
saxophonist, Charlie Parker (1920-1955), Gillespie developed
and forged a new method of improvisations within chord
structures that “freed” Jazz from the comparatively staid
and “four-square” methods used in the prevailing big band format.

Fewer Jazz fans are aware of Gillespie’s pioneering role in the
integration of big band American Jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms,
during the 1940’s.

“Fast forward” to the 1980’s, when “A Night in Havana – Dizzy
Gillespie in Cuba”
was filmed. This 1988 production was directed
by John Holland, and released on the Docurama label in 2005.
It features Dizzy Gillespie playing with well known artists,
such as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (1949-) and pianist Gonzalo
Rubalcaba (1963-), along with the other musicians in their
respective bands. The film primarily treats Gillespie as a
goodwill ambassador, and even shows him socializing
with Fidel Castro!

Here, Gillespie is afforded ample opportunities to recount his
memories and provide his musical insights. While it is a good
film, I can’t help wishing that it contained more actual performances.
I was very impressed by the Jazz sets I observed, particularly the
playing by Arturo Sandoval. What chops!

Bonus features on this DVD include a text biography of John
Holland, along with his philosophy regarding the filming of the
documentary. “A Night in Havana – Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba”
provides an important and informative look at a key aspect of
Jazz history, and one of its titans.

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