I was sorting through some files the other day and came across some old photos of the time I met Dizzy Gillespie, so this month, I thought I would share those experiences with you.
It was in 1986 when I met Dizzy Gillespie, and I was on board the MV Regent Sea undertaking my first professional job as a trumpet player in the ship’s orchestra. The first shock I got was when I found out I was on board, not for three months, but for seven and a half months. The next, even bigger shock was that as we met the ship in Jamaica, we sailed around the Caribbean for only two weeks and then the rest of the contract was to cruise around Alaska!! To be fair, it was the summer months, so things could have been worse, and I did get to visit Vancouver once a week, where the new passengers joined the ship for their holidays. And it was in Vancouver that passengers joined for, what in my opinion, turned out to be the best musical week of the whole seven and a half months – a week long jazz cruise featuring many world class American jazz musicians such as Count Basie’s singer, Joe Williams, the Newport Jazz All Stars, Dizzy Gillespie and others, all hosted by Leonard Feather.
At the tender age of eighteen, the whole experience of meeting and even better, jamming with Dizzy Gillespie and other famous musicians that I had grown up listening to, was an inspiration and an honour. Wise words from Dizzy, that still ring in my ears even to this day every time I pick up my trumpet to play are “don’t puff your cheeks out like me – keep them in man!” No one, but no one puffs their cheeks out like Dizzy Gillespie when they play trumpet, but it’s not done him too much harm! And who else can say they have actually played Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet?!! John Moakes can!