Diz on Bird—The Jazz Review, January 1961

This week I’m posting interviews from the music journal The Jazz Review, which has been wonderfully preserved at the great website jazzstudiesonline.org. Founded by Nat Hentoff, Martin Williams, and Hsio Wen Shih in New York in 1958, The Jazz Review was the premier journal of jazz in the United States. Short-lived as it was (1958-1961), it set an enduring standard for criticism. All the interview links point to the full .pdf for that issue, so it might take a second to load. Worth the wait!

Today’s interview is a treat; Dizzy Gillespiegives a long interview to Felix Manskleid strictly on the topic of Charlie Parker. Diz passes on some interesting history during the talk, and here he talks about the evolution of Bebop:

How would you describe the evolution of jazz from the time when you started out, and Charlie Parker started out, until the time you had arrived and actually were known, and you had created something?

You don’t have any set time or place where any one thing happened in music. It’s such a big picture — you got to take it in terms of alto sax, in terms of tenor sax, in terms of trumpet . . . How can you say what started what or where or when? 

You should get a bunch of guys who were with us at the time and ask them to remember what happened. It’s very hard to remember. You might be putting yourself on. All the original guys know exactly who contributed what. One guy who has been sadly neglected in the history of mpdern music, I think, is Oscar Pettiford. 

Charlie Parker and I, we started out of the same kind of music, but our styles are different.

One thing that is different now, most soloists now know how to play piano — most of the best ones. It’s very important because it is the basic instrument of Western music, the piano gives you the key. When you know that, you can branch out to other instruments. It gives you a wonderful perspective. But you can’t say it was a new thing. We all were working on the same chords, the same notes that everybody worked on from before. It was just a different approach. It takes lots of little things that when they are added up, many, many, many, many of them, they add up to a great abundance. 

Click here to read Diz on Bird—The Jazz Review, January 1961