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Dizzy Gillespie (1917)close

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, born in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children, emerged as a trumpet player whose role as a founding father of jazz made him a major figure in 20th-century American music. His signature moon cheeks and bent trumpet made him one of the world's most instantly recognizable figures.

In a nearly 60-year career as a composer, bandleader and innovative player, Gillespie cut a huge swath through the jazz world. In the early 1940's, along with the alto saxophonist Charlie (Yardbird) Parker, he initiated be-bop, the sleek, intense, high speed revolution that has become jazz's most enduring style. In subsequent years, he incorporated Afro-Cuban music into jazz, creating a new genre from the combination. Dizzy Gillespie died in 1993.

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