Diz Lives!

Classic Arts Features   Diz Lives!
Jazz at Lincoln Center welcomes the jovial spirit of jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie to its new home at Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Introducing Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, which will make many smile with the universal language of music. The club is just one of three performance venues in Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, which includes the Rose Theater and The Allen Room.

This is more than just a jazz nightclub. This is the place to hang out with your friends and enjoy the most swinging and heartfelt jazz in New York City. You, the patron, will breathe life into it. Gillespie's birthday, October 21, kicked off the three-week Dizzy Gillespie Festival and gave birth to a new sacred ground for jazz music. Overlooking Columbus Circle, the Broadway and 60th Street location of Frederick P. Rose Hall is prime real estate with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline.

"Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is designed to entertain people in the spirit that Dizzy had: very welcoming," JALC Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis explains. "Dizzy Gillespie was a genius of music, an inspired teacher, and a believer in the oneness of people. He was a great dancer, a comedian, and someone who embraced all aspects of jazz‹from the swinging big band, to the Afro-Cuban, to Afro-Latin, to a small late-night combo. He brought the joy of jazz to millions of listeners all over the world forever and, with the help of The Coca-Cola Company, our club will embody his sense of community and joie de vivre."

It's all about hard-swinging fun. Like Dizzy's laugh. "He is the one that embodied, most of all, what our mission is about," Marsalis says. "He taught musicians how to play bebop. He was an innovator. He invited people from different cultures into the music. He stayed on the road. He was a fun-loving guy. He was of the higher faith. He was a great intellectual of this music."

Great food. Great location. Great music. And who better to work with Marsalis in booking the bands than Todd Barkan? A living legend in the jazz industry, Barkan was the owner and programmer of one of the hottest jazz clubs in the world, the Keystone Korner, in San Francisco from 1972 to 1983. Art Blakey called it the "Birdland of the '70s." Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon called it their "favorite place in the world to play."

With many hard miles on the road, Gillespie exemplified tolerance and understanding. He accepted people of all nations. Speaking of his love for Africa, he once said, "I love all of it! And it's different all over. It's weird, man. You go to one place and hear music and then three miles down the street you'll hear another band and it's totally different."

Here's a glimpse into the wonderful mind of Dizzy Gillespie. His hero? "Paul Robeson. My greatest achievement was probably receiving the Paul Robeson Award." Sports? "I'm a big New York Giants fan!" Can Jimmy Carter sing "Salt Peanuts?" "Not in time! (laughs)" John Coltrane? "He was very serious. He practiced all the time." Charlie Parker? "He was the boss. Very well spoken. He was like a nuclear physicist. Bird was mind-boggling." Advice to young musicians? "Practice, practice, practice. You can't practice enough. Learning the piano is one of the most important parts. You can see all the notes at one time." Kids? "Education is it! Yeah, man. School is the best place for 'em."

And what's the real story behind the bent trumpet? "Two comedians were on the stage," Gillespie once explained. "And one pushed the other one and he fell back. His coat caught into the bell and the top of the mouthpiece of the horn…and it just bent. That's all. I had it fixed the next day. Then I started thinking about it. I had my wife draw me a picture of what I had in mind and then I had it made that way." The advantage? "It's closer to your ear."

With the combined knowledge and experience of Marsalis, Barkan, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is in able hands. The club's journey will be directed by the best in the business. Marsalis's vision is to establish a "real house of swing with down-home sophistication." Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola was designed with the late Greenwich Village bar, Bradley's, on University Place, in mind. In that tradition, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will be hosting late-night "hang sets," or as some refer to them, "jam sessions." You never know who's going to make a surprise appearance.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, with an 11 p.m. set performed by most of the headline artists on Friday and Saturday evenings. Pianists including John Hicks, Arturo O'Farrill, and Eric Lewis, and a rich variety of other jazz players, will host the late-night hang sets at 11 p.m. Monday nights feature "Upstarts," with some of the hottest young jazz musicians of the day participating.

Marsalis's musical vision celebrates and embraces "one world of jazz." Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will continue the multicultural work that has already begun at Jazz at Lincoln Center, integrating elements of music from around the world‹Spanish flamenco, Afro-Cuban rumbas, Argentinian tangos, and Brazilian capoeiras‹into straight-ahead jazz performances. Expect to see international jazz stars like Russian saxophonist Igor Butman, Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez, Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, Belgian harmonicat Toots Thielemans, and British singer Ian Shaw. As the musical ambassador of goodwill, Dizzy's good work is continuing.

You'll also love the food, dinner or dessert. New York culinary creators Great Performances and Spoonbread Inc. present a menu inspired by the great jazz cities: Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans. Spoonbread Inc. is New York's largest African American owned, full-service caterer and has worked with Great Performances to create recipes, a menu, and cocktail selections for Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, offering down-home flavor with a New York flair. A sample of the menu includes rosemary baby lamb chops, Southern fried chicken, North Carolina pulled pork, candied yams, black-eyed-pea fritters, cabbage, and collard greens.

Dizzy was very personable. Such an important figure in American culture, he epitomized "down-home." He loved to laugh, but he loved to swing hard, too. As Barkan relates, "Dizzy told me on more than one occasion, 'You know, Todd, having fun with this music is very serious business.'"

Perhaps Marsalis put it best: "We just want people to have a good time. We want the musicians to feel comfortable to play. We want people to come in and have a memorable experience. This whole facility is designed for international participation. This is a hall of integration…to bring everything together."

We raise our glass to the living memory of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, the Goodwill Ambassador of Music. Welcome to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is open seven days a week. It'll be bustling until the wee hours of the morning with great jazz and great food. The doors open at 6 p.m. for seating for the first set and for dinner, and there will be a late-night menu as well. The cover charge is generally $30 for featured performers, $10 for late-night hang sets, and $15 for "Upstarts," plus $10 minimum at tables and $5 minimum at the bar. With 92 table seats and 48 barstools, the club seats 140 comfortably. For reservations, call 212-258-9595 or visit the Web site at www.jalc.org.

Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director-Public Relations for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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