Horn of Plenty
updated 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
Last week the trumpet of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, 75, fell silent. Jazz's great elder statesman died of pancreatic cancer in a hospital near his home in Englewood, N.J. To jazz buffs Diz was known for helping to create the angular rhythms and harmonic complexities of bebop, for introducing Latin sounds into jazz, for being a willing teacher to new musicians and for outliving virtually every jazz great he worked with, from Charlie Parker to Thelonious Monk. "We in the jazz world thought of Dizzy as the King," says tenor-sax giant Sonny Rollins. "He was a great, great artist who could reach all of the people and still retain the deep respect of his peers."
Gillespie, born in Cheraw, S.C., inherited a love of music from his father, a brick mason and amateur musician. The Diz was the personification of the humorous hipster, complete with goatee, beret, dark glasses, pipe and dashiki. He became famous for his bullfrog-cheeked playing style. And when a 1953 accident bent the bell of his horn upward at a 45-degree angle, he kept it that way, claiming he could hear the sound better. Privately he held strong beliefs—he was a follower of the Baha'i faith—and even ran for President in 1964 to protest racism. Childless, he stayed married to the same woman, Lorraine, for 52 years—a show-business rarity. "He was a role model for jazz musicians because he had his personal life together as well as his music," says bassist Milt Hinton. "He attained the greatest heights a musician can attain but never lost his relationships with his friends."