Stuff Smith and Dizzy Gillespie: Rio Pakistan
Stuff Smith + Dizzy Gillespie + Oscar Peterson (Verve 314 521 676-2)
Composed by Dizzy Gillespie.
Recorded: New York City, April 17, 1957
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
The track "Rio Pakistan" first appeared on the 1957 album Dizzy Gillespie-Stuff Smith, and reappeared on the 1994 CD compilation that collected the three Stuff Smith sessions for Verve that enabled Norman Granz to revive the career of the by then largely forgotten--yet major--jazz violinist, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this summer (Aug. 14, 2009). Dizzy's "Rio Pakistan" was inspired by his band's State Department tour of the Middle East in 1956. As he related in his autobiography To Be or Not to Bop, "I learned a lot over there. I learned some scales and made some recordings with Stuff Smith using some of those scales in it that came out of Pakistan. ...The notes I used are from the scale, but I made up the lick from the scale. It's called a raga."
Add a samba beat, and "Rio Pakistan" makes for an unusual 11-minute aural experience, especially for 1957. Stuff plays the tantalizing theme with Dizzy's intricate embellishments and then the two reverse roles on the replay, both obviously comfortable with the non-Western melodic line. Smith's solo proves his adaptability, as he surges forward exuberantly and confidently with riffs, bluesy slurred sighs, and other tonal inflections that craftily adhere to the piece's essence. Dizzy's solo follows and benefits from Stuff's pizzzicato urgings. The trumpeter was in peak form circa 1957 (his summit meeting with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt also came that year), and his brash, serpentine lines here are exhilarating. Wynton Kelly then eats up the "changes" in a soulfully eloquent improv, during which his provocative locked-hand constructs artfully capture the "raga" feel as well as anything played on the track. Stuff and Dizzy unhurriedly offer up the theme a final time to wind down this rather unique performance.
Reviewer: Scott Albin