This slick, exciting CD is trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s reimagining of the key work of John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, his mentor, inspiration and friend. It recasts more than reanimates his benchmark tunes by way of punchy arrangements from a gang of top-flight conceptualists including the cinematic Gordon Goodwin, the brooding Nan Schwartz and the playful Wally Minko.
Sandoval is more splashy than sentimental. While his solos can scrape the stratosphere (most dramatically on a smoothly vocalized and witty “Salt Peanuts”), he largely and wisely lets Gillespie’s wit and humor rule. A jaunty, devilishly complex “Be Bop” (featuring Diz’s spoken introduction of Sandoval) launches a long, intelligently sequenced disc that runs the emotional gamut. Besides “Be Bop,” highlights include a velvety “Con Alma,” a nicely upholstered version of “Birks’ Works” identified as “a la Mancini” because of its plush Plas Johnson sax (Johnson soloed on Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”), and a “A Night in Tunisia” showcasing the piano of arranger Minko, Ed Calle’s serpentine saxophone and the penetrating trombone of Bob McChesney.
Sandoval, who defected from Cuba in 1990 while on tour in Spain with Gillespie, has enlisted some trophy players, including Gary Burton, whose vibes enliven “Salt Peanuts”; B3 master Joey DeFrancesco and Yellowjackets saxman Bob Mintzer, who drive “Things to Come”; and clarinetist Eddie Daniels, who lends piquancy to “Fiesta Mojo.” The leader caps this spirited homage with an original vocal, “Every Day I Think of You.” Like everything else on this disc, it’s heartfelt.