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Artist’s Choice: Peter and Will Anderson on Diz and Bird

At the front lines of the creation of bebop

Dizzy Gillespie
Peter and Will Anderson

At age 10 we both started on the alto sax, and fell in love with Charlie Parker. The two of us were jamming a lot together, and were fascinated by the way Bird and Diz phrased two horns that sounded like one. Bird and Diz are two of our favorite improvisers and composers, and worked together as a two-horn front line better than any other duo. They had a great knowledge of early jazz, influenced by Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and the John Kirby Sextet, among others.

All tracks feature Charlie Parker, alto sax; and Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet.

Diz and Bird at Town Hall (Uptown Jazz, 2005)

with Al Haig, piano; Curly Russel, bass; Max Roach, drums

One of the most incredible recordings of the true birth of bebop on June 22, 1945. Bird showed up late, and Don Byas filled in for Bird. But, alas, Bird walks in with his horn just in time to take care of business (the crowd cheers for Bird’s entrance during Dizzy’s solo). The creativity and raw emotion of all of the soloists at this tempo is beautiful. You couldn’t orchestrate a better ending!

“Blue n’ Boogie”
Summit Meeting at Birdland (CBS, 1978)
Blue n’ Boogie

Bud Powell, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.

A rare, incredible live broadcast bebop reunion concert at Birdland, March 31, 1951. The front line ensemble playing is exquisite-the interludes and shout choruses make this recording special. Tons of quotes all around!

“Warmin’ Up a Riff”
The Charlie Parker Story (Savoy, 1945)
Warmin’ Up a Riff

with Curly Russel, bass; Max Roach, drums

Nov. 26, 1945-Bud Powell couldn’t make the recording, so Dizzy plays piano! Bird’s genius leaves the musicians yelling for more. Bird is inspired over “Cherokee” changes, and offers a rare quote, among others, of “Cocktails for Two” toward the end, eliciting a laugh from Dizzy!

Diz and Bird at Carnegie Hall (Blue Note, 1997)

Al McKibbon, bass; Joe Harris, drums; John Lewis, piano

Outstanding reunion of Diz and Bird on Sept. 29, 1947. Cherokee at quarter note =350+.

Jazz at Massey Hall (Debut, 1953)

Bud Powell, piano; Charles Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums.

Perhaps the most special of all of the Diz and Bird Reunion concerts, Toronto, 1953. Bird plays a plastic Grafton saxophone, making it sound like gold. Bird quotes Charlie Shaver’s “Dawn of the Desert” and Dizzy quotes “Laura.”

“Hot House”
Jazz at Massey Hall (Debut, 1953)

Bud Powell, piano; Charles Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums.
Hot House

Same Massey Hall date.

Diz and Bird (Verve, 1952)

Curly Russel, bass; Buddy Rich, drums; Thelonious Monk, piano.

Dizzy cites this as his favorite studio recording with Bird.

“An Oscar for Treadwell”
Diz and Bird (Verve, 1952)
An Oscar for Treadwell

Curly Russel, bass; Buddy Rich, drums; Thelonious Monk, piano.

It’s great to hear Monk playing with Diz and Bird. Monk’s unique comping style really changes the way they phrase during their solos. These Verve recordings are exceptional quality and all instruments can be clearly heard.

“Lover Man”
Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes (Savoy, 2002)
Lover Man

Sarah Vaughn, vocals; Curly Russel, bass; Sid Catlett, drums, Al Haig, piano.

Beautiful 1945 example of Diz and Bird’s sensitive ensemble and obligato playing behind a vocalist. Dizzy’s playing is extremely vocal-like, yet very sophisticated. Unfortunately Bird doesn’t take an outright solo, but a very important recording nonetheless! If you like Diz and Bird with Sarah, I recommend checking out “Bird on the Wing.”

“Salt Peanuts”
Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes (Savoy, 2002)
Salt Peanuts

Al Haig, piano; Curley Russel, bass; Sid Catlett, drums.

Early bebop classic-Dizzy’s attempt to get you to laugh! Diz and Bird demonstrate their flawless ensemble unison. Dizzy and Bird always deliver home-run one-chorus solos! Sid Catlett is always a joy to hear, and he really demonstrates how this bebop music is strongly swing oriented.

Peter and Will Anderson are saxophonists and composers in NYC, with a recent release entitled Correspondence (Smalls Records). Visit them online at

Originally Published