VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Con Alma Mixtape”
John Birks Gillespie is one of the most well-rounded and peer-respected jazz musicians of all times. In fact, Dizzy Gillespie is among the top twenty most important jazz musicians of the last sixty or seventy years. While he’s not currently considered as influential a trumpeter as is Miles, many people don’t realize that at one point Diz was the man. He was the idol of trumpet players and spawned a series of young trumpeters who went on to make a lot of noise as instrumentalists. I’m thinking of people like Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, on down to musical acolyte Jon Faddis.
Although he was widely known as a funny entertainer, his influence goes a lot further than making the music enjoyable to people worldwide. Dizzy was also a major teach and band leader. He as forever showing younger musicians chords and changes, explaining the ins and outs, and teaching how to respect oneself as well as the music.
But beyond that, Dizzy is the single major force responsible for incorporating Afro-Cuban and other Latin-flavorings into jazz. And beyond all of that, I also deeply dig Dizzy as a composer, and “Con Alma” is one of my favorites.
Funny thing, I started this Mixtape because I like “Con Alma” and was kind of wondering how many different recorded versions were there. The answer is over two hundred, and the interpretations vary very widely from Latin to hard bop, from mid-tempo romp to an elegant ballad. And I was able to find strong renditions in each category.
But what really surprised me was Dizzy’s business, I mean how he took care of business as a soloist. We open with an early version and the penultimate track is from Dizzy’s last recording before he transitioned. In between the latin opening and the ballad closing are three other versions. One is a long, funk-influenced workout, another is a literal symphonic rendering, and then in the middle is a recording from a jazz concert in Cuba featuring Dizzy and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba on electronic keys.
The goodness of all the other tracks notwithstanding, I’m especially moved by the two closing versions. Dizzy’s last recordings and Gonzalo’s solo tribute to Dizzy, both are infused with an almost mystic sense of spiritual intimacy. Dizzy for his part seems to be offering both a benediction to his life as a musician and a prayer for better things to come, while Gonzalo delivers an immensely moving elegy whose serene beauty surrounds the listener long after the last quiet piano note have decayed into silence.
The last third of this mixtape is liturgical in its impact. This meditative music makes one think about the meaning of one’s life: what we’ve done with the time we’ve spent on this earth. What have our earthly efforts wrought? What will live on after we’ve gone; what are the mistakes and wrongs we've done that we fervently wish were forgotten, and if not forgotten, at the very least forgiven?
“Con Alma” literally means “with soul.” And that, dear hearts, is the question of the day: have we lived “Con Alma”?
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Con Alma Mixtape Playlist
01 Afro Cuban Jazz – Various Artists, Dizzy Gillespie
02 Mi Alma Latina – U.S. Army Field Band
03 Parkdale – Elizabeth Shepherd
04 Easy Does It – March Hemmeler
05 The Other Side Of Notting Hill – Cameron Pierre
06 The Awakening – Doug Pierce
07 Musician. Composer. Raconteur – Dizzy Gillespie
08 Right Time – Franck Avitabile
09 Live At The Jazz Plaza Festival 1985 – Dizzy Gillespie
10 Con Alma - A Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie – Judy Rafat
11 The Symphony Sessions – Dizzy Gillespie
12 Unsung Heroes – Tierney Sutton
13 Bird Songs – Dizzy Gillespie
14 Diz – Gonzalo Rubalcaba
This entry was posted on Monday, August 9th, 2010 at 11:28 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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