Initially commissioned by the ChazzFest organizers to produce a poster and various graphic designs, local filmmaker/videographer/painter Kevin Harrison and Production Design Associates (PDA, www.pdastage.com) went a few big steps further. Harrison utilized his own paintings and collection of images and produced a multi-media presentation aimed at paying tribute to one of South Carolina's very own — the late, great jazz horn player Dizzy Gillespie, who was born in 1917 in the upstate town of Cheraw.
Local trumpeter Charlton Singleton — a longtime jazz cat, member of funk/party band Plane Jane, and full-time educator — signed on to provide a medley of Gillespie favorites to be performed live on the Stadium Stage in synch with Harrison's video montage.
"I did a painting of Dizzy in 1997," says Harrison. "I'll be using that image as a part of the official poster, which was designed to resemble a classic jazz album cover. I assembled various archival film footage, old graphics, newly-arranged graphics, and still photographs for an 18-minute montage. I used the music as a script — various Gillespie standards such as 'A Night in Tunisia,' 'Kind of Blue,' and 'Salt Peanuts' to time the pieces."
Harrison and his crew will be on hand during the festival this Saturday, taping footage for a forthcoming documentary as well.
Gillespie's musical technique was remarkable and often complex, but his creative musical ideas were absolutely ground-breaking. Known best for his hot horn work during the late swing and early be-bop eras, he also utilized new instrumentation and poly-rhythms in a more Afro-Cuban/Latin-jazz vein in the 1940s and '50s.
Through the years, he collaborated with jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Coleman Hawkins, J.J. Johnson, Yusef Lateef, and John Coltrane. He remained busy traveling the world with various big bands and combos before passing away in 1993. —T. Ballard Lesemann