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Dizzy Gillespie: To Be Or Not To Bop

Apr 21, 2015

To Be Or Not To Bop by Dizzy Gillespie may be the definitive treatise on the life of the legendary trumpeter and the evolution of the jazz form of “Be-bop”.  While Dizzy’s book is essential jazz literature, the new volume Music Is Forever:  Dizzy Gillespie, The Jazz Legend, And Me by Detroiter Dave Usher is a crucial companion to Dizzy Gillespie’s story.

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  Detroit area jazz lovers have been begging Dave Usher to recount his jazz story and his tales of travelling and recording with soul-brother Dizzy Gillespie for decades.  With this tome we are privy to the back-stories of Dave’s early life in Detroit, his love of family and the strong societal values instilled by his parents, his life-long love affair with jazz, his tenure with Chess Records in Chicago, and his environmentally-focused work with Marine Pollution Control and his deep, enduring friendship with Dizzy Gillespie.   

Dave’s friendship with Dizzy Gillespie started in 1944 when 14 year old Dave offered to give Dizzy a ride to his hotel after a concert at Detroit’s legendary Paradise Theatre.  Dave then attended Farragut Academy in New Jersey and made weekend treks to Manhattan to hear live music including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.   The wily, creative and enterprising young Dave realized an early dream to record Dizzy Gillespie in 1948 for his first record label, Emanon Records.  In 1951, Gillespie and Usher reunited to record at Detroit’s revered United Sound Studio for the landmark Dee Gee sessions.   This experience cemented the lasting relationship between Dave Usher and Dizzy Gillespie.   The Usher-Gillespie bond included international travel, encounters with heads of state, shows for underprivileged children, high profile television appearances and impromptu jazz concerts while traveling to major appearances. 

Many of the stories Dave Usher related with co-author Berl Falbaum in Music Is Forever:  Dizzy Gillespie, The Jazz Legend, And Me are downright hilarious while some describe rather woeful tales of American and international race relations and politics in the 1950s through 1980s.  This important book reveals the account of two unlikely friends – a white Jew from Detroit and a black jazz musician born in South Carolina who defied the odds as businessmen, partners and pals for 49 years.  For the inside scoop on Dizzy Gillespie’s appearance at The White House with Jimmy Carter, an understanding of Gillespie’s abiding Bahá’i faith, his travel to Cuba, his International Orchestra, the importance of Detroit in early modern jazz  and more - Music Is Forever: Dizzy Gillespie, The Jazz Legend, And Me by Detroiter Dave Usher published through Red Anchor Productions is highly recommended.