Dizzy Gillespie Documentary in the Works

The bebop legend’s nephew is trying out crowdfunding to continue his ambitious film project

Dizzy Gillespie, honored by Pittsfield Jazz Festival
Dizzy Gillespie

Producer, drummer, and MC G. Craig “Butter” Glanville has announced a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo “to make the most in-depth documentary on Dizzy Gillespie that has ever been done.”

Glanville, whose résumé includes work with vocalist Lalah Hathaway and saxophonist Najee as well as trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, is Gillespie’s nephew. He, along with other members of the Gillespie family, has been self-funding the film project, tentatively called Dizzy 101, since early 2017. Its scope quickly expanded far beyond what Glanville had initially intended.

“I’ve seen jazz documentaries,” he says. “Music documentaries where they talk about their lives: They had some big hits, then they had a rough time with drugs, and maybe they didn’t, and had some more hits, and then the end. This isn’t like that. I didn’t realize how many lives he touched, and how deep this venture was gonna be. So that’s definitely been a pleasant surprise.”

Instead of sticking with a well-worn formula, Glanville began by doing exhaustive research. He spent extensive time with Al Fraser, co-author of the trumpeter and bebop pioneer’s autobiography To Be, or Not … to Bop, and combed through Fraser’s 200 archived interviews; journeyed to the trumpeter’s hometown of Cheraw, S.C., to examine both his musical and personal roots; and even tracked down a 100-year-old relative in a South Carolina home.

“We’re researching even the historic aspect of where he got his rhythm and music influences from, going back to slavery times,” Glanville says. “We’re interviewing peers, of which there are not a lot left. People influenced by him. Students, educators—we’ve interviewed some teachers from some prominent institutions. We’ll cover significant portions of his life. There’s a lot of new information about Dizzy for sure, and you’ll probably get some bits and pieces of information you think you know, but deeper and more concrete.”

Glanville hopes to raise $296,000 to hire crew members, complete the editing process, and finance the licensing necessary to use seminal film clips and musical compositions. He will also use prospective funds to produce the documentary’s soundtrack, which will include Hargrove and Take 6, among others. Information on contributing to the film, including rewards at each funding level, can be found at Indiegogo.

“You’re gonna learn, and not just about Dizzy,” Glanville says. “This film is just gonna be chock full of knowledge. We’re going deep.”

In addition to funds, Glanville invites contributions of stories, encounters, and photos of Gillespie for possible use in the film. They can be sent by email to [email protected].

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.