Any visit to town by Dizzy Gillespie is an occasion as rare and welcome as a rainbow, but his weekend at the Catalina Restaurant was something doubly special, as the capacity crowds clearly recognized.
Of the 1986 band, only bassist John Lee remains. There are, however, two returnees from earlier years: Guitarist Ed Cherry is back, replacing the pianist and adding a special warmth to the rhythm blend, and Ignacio Berroa, a powerful Cuban percussionist, is on hand again, bringing with him a dynamism that was urgently needed.
Most remarkably, veteran saxophonist Sam Rivers, who came out of Boston to play with Miles Davis and Cecil Taylor in the 1970s, now brings to the quintet his personal blend of post-bop and post-post-bop ingredients.
This adds up to the best group the avant-courier of the trumpet has headed in several years. The company he now keeps has inspired him to performance levels closer to the Gillespie who blazed be-bop trails. His solos on a long opening piece, the Toccata movement from Lalo Schifrin's "Gillespiana" suite, as well as on his own "Night in Tunisia" and "Fiesta Mojo," had the spirit and much of the creative control that marked his most puissant early works.