To Bop Or Not To Be: A Jazz Life – 1990

Dizzy Gillespie


A fine documentary about the remarkable trumpeter

Dizzy Gillespie was not only one of the greatest trumpeters of all time and a co-founder of both bebop and Afro-Cuban jazz but was always an enthusiastic educator who taught the jazz world how to play bop.

This 1990 documentary has a generous amount of footage of Gillespie being interviewed (not only in 1988 but at earlier periods), and performance excerpts from several decades, from 1946’s “Things To Come” (along with other clips from that year’s Jivin’ In Bebop film) and his 1962 quintet to rehearsing a European big band that includes Jan Garbarek in 1971 on “Manteca.”

There are brief interviews with Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Red Rodney, Max Roach, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Clarke, and James Moody, mostly talking about Dizzy’s big band of 1946-49.

The colorful documentary’s spotlight stays on Gillespie, showing what aspects of his career and life were like rather than being a straight chronological study of his career.

-Scott Yanow

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