Picks and Pans Review: Max + Dizzy—paris 1989

updated 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie

It has been nearly half a century since drummer Max Roach and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie helped launch a musical revolution with saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. Roach was still a teenager when he played in many of the earliest bebop jam sessions at Harlem nightclubs. And Gillespie, who had already provided a glimpse of his genius in big-band stints with Teddy Hill and Cab Calloway, emerged as Parker's closest musical confederate. Roach, now 66, and Gillespie, 72, remain fast friends and last year recorded this Paris concert.

Given the sentimental significance of the event, Roach and Gillespie might have been forgiven a lapse into musical nostalgia. Instead, the brothers emeriti of bop came to play. The result is a one-on-one improvisational dialogue, featuring new material and fresh takes on such classic tunes as "Salt Peanuts" and " 'Round Midnight," which crackles with wit.

Roach's solos are models of structured rhythmic development, with subtle changes in pitch and timbre, which literally make the drum kit sing. Gillespie, once renowned for his startling ability to reach stratospheric heights on the trumpet, now plays primarily in the middle register. But his chops are particularly strong in this session, and he dazzles with a leaner approach to melody.

Included in this double CD set is a half-hour interview with Roach and Gillespie about Charlie Parker. In the conversation, as in their music, Roach and Gillespie emphasize the positive contribution Parker made to music rather than dwell on the tragedy of his premature death. Indeed the musical vitality of Max + Dizzy is affirmation that wherever forward-looking jazzmen gather, Bird lives. (A & M)

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