Understand that Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac, a live album from the mid 60s, is not bad music, by any means. But it's not Dizzy's best album, either.
Diz himself is in fine form on this recording, and perhaps the advantage of such a late live record is that the listener gets to appreciate his live playing with much better sound quality than examples from earlier in his career. The rest of the band is hit-and-miss. We once again find James Moody as Gillespie's partner in crime, and he as well is playing at his usual high calibre, demonstrating virtuosity on the alto saxophone while at the same time proving that he is no slouch on the flute, either. While the man is certainly no Charlie Parker, he is nonetheless a stellar musician who complements Dizzy well.
Mike Longo and Otis Finch Jr, on piano and drums respectively, are rather mediocre. While they don't ruin the performance by any means, they aren't going to make anyone sit up and take notice - especially those who play piano or drums themselves. Finch, however, is noteworthy for the way in which he keeps up with Dizzy's changing rhythmic styles - from swing to Latin to African.
Perhaps the album's greatest liability is the mysterious Frank Schifano on bass, a man who I admit to knowing nothing about and who I'm not able to find very much information on, either. His bass playing is limited and rudimentary; his walks are simple and lack creativity, and while it might just be my imagination he seems to find himself off the beat with uncomfortable frequency.
Understand, however, that aside from the occasional goof on the bass, the disappointing rhythm section is still able to get the job done - the problem is simply that they are no match for the stellar horn section they seek to be supporting - one of whom is listed amongst the great legends of American music, no less.
As far as the music itself goes, the highlights are easily tracks 2 and 5. Track 2 is Mas Que Nada, a Brazilian pop song. Featuring explosive trumpet work from Diz and a combination of lilting flute and blazing sax from Moody over a Latin vibe that commands rather than invites the audience dance, this track is best summed up by the enthusiastic word heard from the audience: "Beautiful!"
Track 5, Kush, is a Gillespie original, and part of his Afro-Cuban jazz ideal. It opens with a breathtaking introduction, combining exotic percussion with soaring, exploratory flute work that does, in fact, evoke the jungles of Africa. This transitions into the head, which begins with a subdued trumpet lead before the entire band enters with an explosion. The bulk of the track is devoted to one solo each by Diz and Moody (on sax); however, while good, neither solo is the most interesting thing either musician has done.
The first song, the title track, is perhaps a bit of a novelty piece, but is nevertheless a good introduction to the Dizzy live experience. Experimenting with African beats, and good-natured interaction between Diz, Moody, and sometimes the audience as well, the song is fun without being obnoxious. The lyrics themselves are a tongue-in-cheek take on a famous African-American spiritual. There is a brief instrumental section (with a solo by Dizzy), but it's mostly vocals backed by drums.
This leaves tracks 3 and 4, both of which are far too short to be worth much attention. The former is a blues-y number, the latter is a ballad with Dizzy singing. While he's a mediocre singer at best, he at least seems to be aware of it and sounds like he is almost playing with the audience a bit.
All in all, this album is worth the price of admission, but not by much. It's a good example of Dizzy's playing, but really any prospective fan is much better off digging into some of his earlier albums (Live at Newport, for instance).