Before I begin this review I'd like to clarify one thing: I do not consider myself a fan of big band jazz. Especially modern big band, for that matter.
But this album has me reconsidering. From the very second I turned on the first track "Bebop" I was hooked to listening through the entire album in one sitting (something that didn't actually happen, unfortunately, since I had to be somewhere). Of course, since then I haven't entirely thought of it as a 5 star album but enough to consider it a masterpiece.
It wasn't until after I listened through it did I discover that this album was a nominee for 2013's grammy award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, which it actually ended up winning. Although I can't say I've listened to the other nominees, I believe this album is rightfully deserving of an award of some kind.
"Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)" is a tribute album to Dizzy Gillespie from modern trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval. Every tune except for the last one was either written by Dizzy Gillespie or was played by him at some point in his life. As a result, the album is a nice blend between bebop and latin jazz. Being modern covers, they lack the authenticity of the Bebop era but are in themselves brilliant arrangements full of more energy and emotion than I usually hear in big band settings. The last tune, "Every Day I Think of You" is a beautiful ballad written by Arturo Sandoval as a personal ode to Dizzy and his influence in his life (If I am to be honest, the lyrics creep me out a little, but that's just me).
To make this album worthy of being a tribute album to Gillespie, Sandoval features several different guest artists and arrangers who make the album truly shine. "Bebop" is arranged by Gordon Goodwin and features solos from Shelly Berg on piano and Zane Musa on alto. "Salt Peanuts" is another Gordon Goodwin arrangement and features solos from Bob Mintzer on the tenor sax and Gary Burton on the vibraphone. "And Then She Stopped" is an arrangment by Chris Walden and features Joey DeFranesco on the organ. "Birks Works (ala Mancini)" is a Shelly Berg arrangement featuring more Joey DeFranesco as well as Plas Johnson. "Things To Come" is another Gordon Goodwin arrangment which, like the past two tracks feature DeFranesco as well as back and forth tenor solos between Bob Mintzer and Bob Sheppard. "Fiesta Mojo" features clarinet player Eddie Daniels, which adds a nice flavor to the latin chart. "Con Alma (With Soul)" is probably the most unique arrangement of all. This tune, originally a latin chart, becomes a ballad featuring a string quartet. It's sound would allude to the last track on the album. "Tin Tin Deo" is arranged by Dan Higgins (who is actually a sax player in the band), featuring vocals by Manolo Gimenez and a solo from Wally Minko (assumedly on piano). "Algo Bueno (Woody and Me)" is an arrangement by Dan Higgins of the tune "Woody 'n You". Solos feature Dan Higgins himself and Andy Martin on trombone. "A Night in Tunisia (Actually an Entire Weekend!)" arranged by Wally Minko, features Bob McChesney on trombone and Ed Calle on tenor. The ending to this tune is spectacular. Sandoval plays the ending lick to the tune in four different octaves, each one higher than the last until he is blaring it out in a ridiculously high range. "Every Day I Think of You" as said above is a sentimental ballad to Gillespie, also with string accompaniment like "Con Alma".
Dizzy Gillespie would be proud.