Saturday Night Tunes: Roy and Diz


I feel like we’ve been covering a lot of saxophone music lately, so for a little change of pace here’s a sextet with two trumpets and no saxes. Dizzy Gillespie I assume doesn’t need any introduction, but some of you might not be as familiar with Roy Eldridge, which is a shame. Eldridge is best known for his swing-era career, when his high level of skill on the horn and the harmonic inventiveness in his improv made him kind of the trumpeting bridge between Louis Armstrong and Gillespie (although he was only about six years older than Gillespie, so that might be overstating things a little). He was one of the earliest jazz trumpeters to really explore the upper limits of the horn, for example. Because Armstrong and Gillespie are so famous, in comparison Eldridge unfortunately doesn’t get the attention he deserves, but he was an important figure in the development of jazz trumpeting.

Eldridge and Gillespie were very familiar with each other from the New York jazz scene, and Eldridge was constantly compared to Gillespie because of the similarities in their styles (even hearing them side by side it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart), even though Eldridge had started his career before Gillespie did. It was only natural that they’d be paired together on an album. The 1954 session that produced Roy and Diz also produced enough material for a second album, called, um, Roy and Diz volume 2. I’m working off of my CD copy, which contains both albums, for a total of nine tracks, but here we’ll stick to the first album only (a more manageable five tracks). Along with Eldridge and Gillespie on trumpet and the occasional vocals, the album includes Herb Ellis on guitar, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums.

First up is “I’ve Found a New Baby,” a standard written by Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams in the 1920s. It starts out rhythmically before shifting into a quick bop feel for the solos, with the two trading fours towards the end:

“I Can’t Get Started” is a ballad written by Vernon Duke in the 1930s. Eldridge (I’m pretty sure) takes the melody and first solo while Gillespie plays the tune out, with a Peterson piano solo in the middle:

Eldridge and Gillespie wrote “Trumpet Blues,” which is–brace yourselves–a blues. For trumpets. They helpfully stay in different mutes for this one: Gillespie is in the rougher-sounding cup mute, Eldridge in the mellower Harmon mute. The highlight is obviously the trumpet battle, the second one of the album so far, in the second half of the tune:

“Algo Bueno” is Gillespie’s tune and again features some wonderful trading between the two (this time Gillespie is in the Harmon mute and Eldridge in the cup mute) in the tune’s second half:

Last up is “Pretty Eyed Baby,” a standard written by Mary Lou Williams, Snub Mosley, and William Luther Johnson. This is a vocal showcase for both trumpeters. First Eldridge, then Gillespie, take scat solos backed by the other’s trumpet noodling. They get into another trumpet battle toward the end though:

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