Quincy remembers when his old friend Dizzy Gillespie asked him to be the musical director for his soon-to-be-on-tour big band!

In 1955, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. told the great Dizzy Gillespie that if he could put together a big band, he’d have the State Department sponsor & send it abroad. So, Dizzy called me up & said, “Young catter, I want you to play trumpet, arrange, & be musical director of that band. Put it together for me.” So, as a 22 yr old rugrat (3rd from left in the photo), I had the honor of recruiting an all-star band & we were sent out to bring the art form to places around the world that’d never heard it before. He even had me write the arrangements for the national anthems of the places we toured! I’m talking about Aleppo, Turkey, you name it! It was on this very tour that I experienced the true power of jazz.

For 3 months, we were sent to every post that was experiencing a state of unrest, & when the American Embassy in Athens was under attack, they rushed us over from Ankara, Turkey to perform. The Greek people absolutely fell in love with it, but after the show, we began to panic because we saw the crowd closing in on us …we thought we were done for, but little did we know, all they wanted to do was put Dizzy on their shoulders & carry him around like a rockstar! With our instruments & Dizzy held high, the people shouted “Diz-zy! Diz-zy!,” & for a moment, all was right in the world. No one was thinking about rioting or fighting … it simply turned into a celebration, which was made possible through jazz. The music we played held the power to not only bring peace to a region, but true unity. Dizzy, you’ve been gone for 26 years now, but we’re still playing your music, placing you on our shoulders & shoutin’ your name down here! A absolute hero in every way …

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Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée | With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union