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To Be, or Not . . . to Bop

2009
Authors:

Dizzy Gillespie and Al Fraser

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop

Innovative memoir of jazz genius Dizzy Gillespie tells the story of black American music during one of its greatest periods

This biography is intertwined with reflections from famous Gillespie associates Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. They provide numerous perspectives of Gillespie’s start on the road to fame and the spirited times that would follow. To Be, or Not . . . to Bop is a unique account that serves as both a rollicking history lesson in American music and culture and a towering play-by-play of a life not to be forgotten.

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, a joyous, boisterous chronicle, is also a desperately needed history that will long endure as a testament to a giant of modern jazz.

New York Times, 1980

You don’t have to know John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie’s songs to feel his influence. The self-taught trumpet player rose from a poor but musically driven upbringing to become a jazz mastermind, founding the bebop movement and giving rise to Afro-Cuban music.

This extensive biography is intertwined with reflections from famous Gillespie associates Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. They provide numerous perspectives of Gillespie’s early start on the road to fame and the spirited times that would follow.

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop is a unique account that serves as both a rollicking history lesson in American music and culture and a towering play-by-play of a life not to be forgotten.

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop

Dizzy Gillespie (1917–1993) was an American jazz trumpet virtuoso as well as a bandleader, singer, and composer.

Al Fraser was a longtime friend of Gillespie. He has been a professor of African American studies.

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, a joyous, boisterous chronicle, is also a desperately needed history that will long endure as a testament to a giant of modern jazz.

New York Times, 1980

[Gillespie] is at once one of the most brilliant, creative, funniest, and best-liked innovators in the history of jazz. In these pages, more often by accident than design, he shows us why. To Be, or Not . . . to Bop is indispensable.

Los Angeles Times, 1979

The reissue of his biography is an opportunity to see [Dizzy Gillespie’s] accomplishments through his own bespectacled eyes and gain an additional sense of his style.

Shepherd Express

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop

UMP blog excerpt: Happy birthday, Dizzy.

Before I came to Philly, my family had been telling everybody what a good musician I was and asking people to look out for me when I came up from South Carolina. They didn't realize how soon that would be, so Mama, Mattie, Genia, Wesley, his wife, and I were all living there in this one apartment. Three and a half rooms at 637 Pine Street. Bill, the barber, Mattie's husband, lived with us too. Bill was a sport. He had a Cord automobile, gold teeth, and he owned the barbershop right down the street from us. He was a hustling cat and made late hours at night, but he was really nice to me.