April 2002

Dizzy Gillespie - Live at the Royal Festival Hall, London
Eagle Jazz CD WK 55890
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Eagle Jazz takes us back to 1988 (admittedly late in Gillespie’s career) to a night when Dizzy Gillespie, in concert with the United Nations Orchestra, proved that even at the ripe old age of 71, he could still be a vital force in the jazz world. Joining him in the U.N.O. were Paquito D’Rivera, Slide Hampton, Danielo Perez, James Moody, Steve Turre, Arturo Sandoval, and Claudio Roditi. Of the six tunes included, Gillespie wrote four of them (including the ubiquitous "Night In Tunisia"). We are also given the jazz anthem "Tin Tin Deo" and an original by Turre ("Dizzy Shells").

While there's little new or innovative on this album, Live at the Royal Festival Hall was more about getting the word out that jazz was (and still is, for that matter) still a vital part of the day’s music scene. And where better to make that argument than in Europe, where jazz has always carried a higher status than in the country that created it?

Having spent the latter part of his career championing Latin jazz as an important addition to the be-bop he had helped to introduce in the 1940s, this concert, and the makeup of the U.N.O., allowed Dizzy to focus on that aspect of jazz. Listening to any cut from this album will give you a firm idea of just how well received this music was by audiences worldwide. As an example, lend an ear to "Seresta/Carmen."

As far as the sonics go, this is just an average live recording with a restricted soundstage. Dizzy’s trumpet hasn’t the bite one hears in either live or in better recordings. The piano also sounds a bit hooded. Still, it's well worth owning, as Diz is in fine voice.

It’s nice to see Eagle Jazz releasing so many up-till-now undocumented concerts by jazz greats of the recent past. Although 1988 was an under-appreciated year in Gillespie’s career, this concert recording lets us relive it. It’s a pleasure that we are finally being exposed to such worthwhile, forgotten recordings from important artists.