Dizzy Gillespie, born John Birks Gillespie, was maybe most well-known for his chipmunk cheeks and amazing trumpet skills. His trumpet playing was complex and his light-hearted personality made him a favorite band leader among his contemporaries.

His Jazz Roots

Dizzy was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children. His father was a local bandleader, giving all the children access to instruments at a young age. Dizzy himself began playing the piano at age four. Dizzy’s father died when Dizzy was just 10. He seemed to lose himself in music and taught himself both trombone and trumpet by age 12.

Early in his career, Dizzy Gillespie had the opportunity to play with Cab Calloway and other Jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Dorsey. Those early years opened doors for him. He joined the Earl Hines Band and then worked with Billy Eckstine.

The Father of Bebop

Working with the great jazz musicians early in his career, a new vocabulary of musical phrases was created. Bepop, now thought of as the first modern jazz style, was not popular at first. As an outgrowth of swing, it was first pushed aside. Accidents along the way also contributed to Dizzy’s playing and the growth of the distinct style. A traffic collision left him unable to hit the B-flat above the high C. At a party for his wife, the bell on his trumpet got bent upward. This became so iconic that he had a special instrument made with the bell tilted 45 degrees.

Afro-Cuban Music

Gillespie also worked with many Latin musicians at the time to combine their distinct salsa sound with Bebop and create Afro-Cuban jazz. The unique sound drew people to dance and party. It’s this feeling that we now capture with our food and ambiance at Jazz Kitchen.

The Legacy

Gillespie’s music is still popular to this day. He forever changed the sound of jazz. We’re proud to carry on the fun tradition he started at all five of our Jazz Kitchen locations.