Dizzy Gillespie: The Eternal Triangle


The Eternal Triangle


Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)


Sonny Side Up (Verve 521426)

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Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Sonny Stitt (tenor sax), Ray Bryant (piano), Tommy Bryant (bass), Charlie Persip (drums).

Composed by Sonny Stitt


Recorded: New York, December 19, 1957


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

The 2006 recording by James Moody and Hank Jones of Sonny Stitt's "[The] Eternal Triangle" brings to mind this 1957 version featuring Stitt with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins. It's been said that Gillespie slyly tried to stir up the competitive juices between Rollins and Stitt by telling each beforehand that the other intended to outplay him, although the naturally combative Stitt would have needed little prodding in that regard. By 1957, finally stepping out from behind Charlie Parker's shadow, Stitt was considered a prime contender for Bird's vacated bebop throne, whereas Rollins was the winner of Downbeat's "New Star" award (Way Out West, Newk's Time and A Night at the Village Vanguard all came out that year). With or without Dizzy's scheming, the stage was set for excitement.

The title, "The Eternal Triangle," is a perfect description of the threesome's interaction on this memorably scorching 14-minute track. The stirring theme is forcefully handled by the horns, after which Rollins is off and running, his biting tone hurling the listener through a nonstop series of sinuous extended lines played with a darting and dazzling rhythmic vitality. Stitt follows with a density and inventiveness of phrasing that resembles more than differs from Rollins's own. The boisterous exchanges between the two tenors mesh without any friction, as they appear to be responding to one another in concrete and sensitive ways, rather than trying to impress with empty displays of flashy technique. The momentum and fresh creativity each sustains is admirable. Gillespie's own solo is softly articulated before accelerating brashly to the upper register and then developing into a number of striking motifs and clarion calls. Ray Bryant's boppish blues-inflected solo, and Dizzy's fiery trades with Persip are still other highlights of this fully packed performance.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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