Our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list looks at a legendary jazz singer, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the founders of bebop music. He was known for his cheeks being puffed out while he played the trumpet. He was also known for scat singing. He influenced musicians such as Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Lee Morgan as well as others. Dizzy Gillespie won several Grammys during his career. He was arguably one of the best trumpeters of all time. His hits include “Groovin’ High,” “Salt Peanuts,” “Woody ‘n’ You,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “Lorraine,” “Birks’ Works,” “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac,” “Oop Bop Sh’Bam,” “Con Alma” as well as others.
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was born on October 21, 1917 to January 6, 1993. He taught himself to play the trombone and trumpet when he was 12. He wanted to become a jazz musician when he listened to Roy Eldridge. He was a part of different orchestras before making it big. One of the orchestras he was in featured legendary singer Cab Calloway. They didn’t have the best relationship while they were working together. While he was in Cab Calloway’s band, Dizzy Gillespie started writing music for Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey. He freelanced for the Ella Fitzgerald orchestra.
Dizzy Gillespie has a lot of albums so we are going to include some of them. Groovin’ High was recorded in 1945. It features the singles “Groovin’ High,” “All the Things You Are,” “Salt Peanuts,” “Oop Bop Sh’Bam” and “Things to Come.” Afro came out in 1954. The album features the singles “A Night in Tunisia,” Manteca,” “Con Alma” and “Caravan.” “Diz and Getz was released in 1955. It features the singles “Exactly Like You Are,” “Impromptu” and “One Alone.” Dizzy and Strings was released in 1955. It features the single “Roses of Picardy.” Roy and Diz was released in 1955. It features the singles “Sometimes I’m Happy,” “Blue Moon” and “I Found a New Baby.”
Jazz Recital was released in 1956. It features the single “Taking a Chance on Love” The Modern Jazz Sextet came out in 1956. It features the single “Mean to Me.” World’s Statesman came out in 1956. It features the singles “I Can’t Get Started” and “My Revelry.” Birks’ Works was released in 1957. It features the singles “Autumn Leaves,” “Tangerine,” “Over the Rainbow” and “If You Could See Me Now.” Dizzy Gillespie and Stuff Smith was released in 1957. It features the singles “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Oh, Lady Be Good!”
Sittin’ In was released in 1957. It features the single “The Way You Look Tonight.” Sunny Side Up came out in 1959. It features the singles “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “After Hours.” The Ebullient Mr. Gillespie came out in 1959. It features the singles “Always” and “Willow Weep for Me.” Have Trumpet, Will Excite! was released in 1959. It features the singles “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “My Man, Moonglow,” “St. Louis Blues” and “There Is No Greater Love.” He would go on to release several other albums throughout his career.
Dizzy Gillespie had a long and exciting career. He recorded a lot of albums and songs during his career. He helped inspire a lot of people with his style. He recorded a lot of songs so narrowing it down was a challenge, but we were able to do it. Our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list will feature some of his hit songs.
# 10 – Salt Peanuts
The first song on our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list is “Salt Peanuts” from the album Groovin’ High. The song has a jazz and swing beat. The divine song is one of the first bebop songs. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker collaborated on this track with Curley Russell, Al Haig and Sid Catlett. They had an amazing jam session when they recorded this track. Don’t let the title of this track fool you into thinking this is a silly song. This song features some of the best jazz music ever. This song doesn’t have lyrics, but they weren’t needed. The music speaks for itself.
The song is energetic and bouncy. They keep up a very fast pace that only talented musicians could do. Most people probably couldn’t keep up with the pacing they did on this recording. It would be great to have been a fly on the wall to hear this jam session take place. Every musician on this track had a chance to shine.
Dizzy Gillespie was a genius on the trumpet. Charlie Parker plays the alto sax and he sounds incredible during his solos. Al Haig does a remarkable job playing the piano. Curley Russell had his chance to shine on the bass. Sid Catlett plays the drums like no other artist during that time. The song will make you a fan of jazz and swing music.
# 9 – Oop Bop Sh’Bam
The next song on our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list is “Ooh Bop Sh’Bam” from the album Groovin’ High. The song has a jazz beat. The affectionate song is a tribute to musician Kenny Clarke. The lyrics feature the word “Klook” which is Kenny Clarke’s nickname. Dizzy Gillespie helped write this song because Kenny Clarke was in the war and came home. Here is some trivia about the song. Kenny Clarke didn’t think he could go on after what happened during the war, but Dizzy Gillespie encouraged him that he could do it. This song was his way of showing him that he could make it. This song was be a beautiful way for you to show someone you care about that they will be okay.
The song has a cool vibe. The music is energetic just like our previous entry. The musicians are doing their thing on this track. There are a few lyrics in the song, but it’s their instrumentation that’s the showstopper. The horn section is outstanding. Dizzy Gillespie’s solo on the track will send chills up and down your spine. He provides the lyrics on the track. He does scat singing on the song. Everyone does their part to make this song incredible. The song has a unique title just like our previous entry, but that doesn’t stop it from being a masterpiece. This toe tapper will have you on the floor in no time. The tempo is flawless because they throw everything in the musical pot to create this delicious song.
# 8 – Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac
The spiritual car is from the album of the same name. The song has a jazz sound. The groovy song is an homage to the hymn “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Dizzy Gillespie composed this song because of his partnership with Charlie Parker. This is a different take on the hymn “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Dizzy Gillespie borrows the melody of the hymn for the lyrics of this song. He replaced “chariot” with “Cadillac.” This fast-paced song opens up with a chant by the genius himself. Dizzy Gillespie does a chant that’s very fast and you might not be able to understand what he’s saying.
The music changes after Dizzy Gillespie does his chant. The music is slow and the drumbeat dominates the opening of the song. The song picks up after the chant. The song builds up to a crescendo after the first part of the song. Dizzy Gillespie has a powerful voice. He belts out while he’s chanting. You might be surprised to hear him sing that loudly.
You don’t have to understand what he’s saying to be moved by the chant. It will put you in a spiritual place. The song comes alive when the music picks up. The beat is lively and exciting. The horn section and drums drive the beat of the track. This track will make you feel like you have gone to church because they try to get you to catch the Holy Ghost while they play. They know when to take things up a notch and when to bring things down.
# 7 – Birks’ Work
The playful song is from the album of the same name. The song has a jazz beat. The positive song is a play on Dizzy Gillespie’s middle name. The song has an excellent groove. Dizzy Gillespie shows his talent on this song as a composer as well as a musician. This track gives Dizzy Gillespie a chance to let loose and have fun on a song. He was known for being playful and joking around so this song gives him a chance to do just that. The energetic beat will have you on the dance floor. There is no way to sit still while you are listening to this song. It has a classic big band sound.
The song opens up with the horn section. Within the first few seconds of the song, the rest of the band chimes in. There are points when the band gets loud and then tones things down. It is like a back and forth thing. It is enjoyable hearing the band go up and down with the beat. Dizzy Gillespie has incredible control over the band. They never miss a beat with the music. The musicians all get their chance to shine bright like a diamond in their solo moments. All of them do a tremendous job with their parts. If you aren’t a fan of big band music, this song will turn you into a fan in no time. It is impossible not to enjoy this song.
# 6 – Anthropology
The frenetic song is from the album of the same name. The song has a jazz beat to it. The fast-paced song is incredible. Dizzy Gillespie did a fantastic job leading his band with this song. The song goes through a lot of beat changes throughout the track. The tempo is very fast. You won’t be able to keep up with what’s going on because the musicians do a wonderful job playing this song. The performance is absolutely stunning. Listening to this track may make you wish you were in the room while these greats had their jam session. Dizzy Gillespie is magnificent. His trumpet solo is amazing. Every time you hear him play it will amaze you at the amount of talent he has. Charlie Parker’s alto saxophone solo is exciting to hear. He is just as talented as Dizzy Gillespie. They set the horn section on fire.
The rest of the band is incredible too. Bud Powell’s piano solo will blow you away. It is one of the highlights of the song. Roy Haynes’ drumbeat is terrific. Your jaw will drop listening to how fast he can play the drums. If you close your eyes, you will think you are in a jazz club. You might feel as if you’ve traveled through time and had the honor of listening to these geniuses at work. This is the type of song that will never get old. It may have been recorded decades ago, but it will always be relevant. The song is special and impressive.
# 5 – Woody ‘n’ You
The next song on our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list is “Woody ‘n’ You” from the album Rainbow Mist. The song has a jazz beat. The celebratory song is a tribute to Woody Herman. This song is one of Dizzy Gillespie’s poignant songs. The song is a beautiful tribute to Woody Herman. There have been different covers of this song, but Dizzy Gillespie’s version is arguably the best one recorded. The song has a big band sound that will make you feel like you are in a ballroom. This has a classic standard sound. The high energy of the music will put you in a good mood.
If you’re in a bad mood, there’s no way you couldn’t smile while listening to this track. The horn section dominates the first half of the song. The pianist takes over during the middle of the track. He tickles the ivories like a genius. The musicians know when to speed up the beat and when to slow it down. They take you on a fantasy ride while they play the hypnotic music. You won’t want to get off the ride while this song is playing. Your mind will go to another world. If you are learning to play an instrument, this song will be excellent practice because there are so many instruments in the song.
# 4 – Interlude/A Night in Tunisia
The mythical song is from the album Afro. The song has a jazz beat. The uplifting song is a poetic song about freedom for African Americans. This song was a perfect choice for the theme of the album. African Americans wanted to be free and this song is about the struggles they went through to become free. This song was initially called “Interlude” and Dizzy Gillespie didn’t mention anything about Tunisia. Charlie Parker and Miles Davis’ version is why the title changed. They made the song popular, but we’re going to focus on Dizzy Gillespie’s version. This is one of his signature songs and it’s easy to see why that’s the case.
The song has a melancholy beat and it’s perfect for the theme of the song. The song talks about an important time in history for African Americans. Dizzy Gillespie included his bebop style on this track. He helped make the style famous and it works for this track. He mixed Afro-Cuban rhythms beautifully. The melody is mysterious and exotic. You never know what you will expect while your listening to the song. The song is pure magic. Dizzy Gillespie gives a lot of surprises in this song, which will leave you on the edge of your seat. Every musician gets a chance at a solo and we are happy about it. The song is a treat for any fan of jazz music.
# 3 – Manteca
The vibrant song is from the album Afro. The track has a jazz beat. The thought-provoking song is about racial tension that was going on during the time. Dizzy Gillespie didn’t want to go back to the south because of what was going on during the time. The song is a marriage between Afro-Cuban music and jazz music. This is a bebop jam. The message behind the song makes the track more meaningful. This is a great way to go down memory lane if you are familiar with what happened during that time. If you don’t know about the issues happening during that time, you can still enjoy this song. You can sit back and listen to the experts tell this story without words.
Dizzy Gillespie knew how to tell a story without using a single word. He allowed his music to do the talking for him. “Manteca” is a track that speaks for itself. The music is a wonderful blend of jazz and Latin music. The song is vibrant considering the message behind the track. It will take you to a spiritual place. Everyone does their part to make this song a success. We applaud every musician on this jam. They stop at nothing to make this song sound great. They give this song their all. The horn section in particular is phenomenal. They build up the horn section to a crescendo and we’re here for it. The other musicians weren’t slouches either. They make the song sound incredible.
# 2 – Con Alma
The melodic song is from the album Afro. The track has a jazz sound. The undeniable song was a hit for Dizzy Gillespie. The song blends bebop, jazz and Latin music. The song was written based on unrequited love. The music has a sexy and sultry beat so it makes sense that it’s a love song. This song is perfect to dance to with the person you love. The music is perfect to listen to when you want to do the tango. Dizzy Gillespie knew how to compose a song that will touch your heart. It will put you in a sexy and romantic mood.
Other artists covered “Con Alma,” but Dizzy Gillespie’s version is pure class. He turned this simple song into something beautiful. This isn’t as loud as his other tracks because it doesn’t sound like big band music. He proved that simplicity said it best on this track. Even without lyrics, this song oozes sensuality. Dizzy Gillespie has a solo in the song that will amaze you. If you weren’t a fan of his work before, this song should change your mind. The relaxing tune will set your heart on fire. If you want to stay in and have a special evening with the person you love, you can play this track. The music will take you to heights unknown.
# 1 – Groovin’ High
The number one song on our Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs list is “Groovin’ High” from the album of the same name. The song has a jazz beat. The pleasant song is one of Dizzy Gillespie’s biggest hits. When you think of his large catalog, this song probably isn’t too far from your mind. This is arguably a jazz staple in music. This song became a jazz standard and has been remade over the years. Dizzy Gillespie’s version is arguably the best version released. “Groovin’ High” gives you everything you need to know even without lyrics included. It takes you on a ride and you won’t want to get off because the song is so good.
The track doesn’t have the big band sound like our previous entries, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Dizzy Gillespie and the boys do an amazing job on this track. The music is soft at points and picks up a little in the pace. The musicians show excellent control and timing on this song. They proved they can play very fast when they want to and they can slow things down too. Dizzy Gillespie has a beautiful solo at the end of the track. His solo is a perfect way to end a beautiful song. This song was written decades ago, but it still sounds just as fresh today. This is the type of song that will never get old.
Feature Photo: Roland Godefroy, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Dizzy Gillespie Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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