Dizzy Gillespie: (originally John Birks) (1917-1993) U.S. jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleaders, one of the primary innovators of bebop. Born in Cheraw, South Carolina, Gillespie was influenced by Roy Eldridge and played with the big bands of Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, and Billy Eckstine before leading small groups in the mid-1940s. He pioneered bebop with saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Thelonious Monk. Bringing this approach to his big band in the late 1940s, Gillespie popularized the use of Afro-Cuban rhythms in jazz. Alternating between large and small ensembles for the rest of his career, his virtuosity and comic wit (in addition to his puffed cheeks and trademark 45° upturned trumpet bell) made him one of the most charismatic and influential musicians in jazz.
Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.