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Groovin' High (1944)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Groovin’ High” is a “bebop” head loosely based on the chord progression of “Whispering.”

- K. J. McElrath

Rank 186
Written by Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie took a sextet into the studio on February 9, 1945, and recorded two new compositions, “Groovin’ High,” a medium tempo tune based on the chord changes of “Whispering” (written in 1920), and “Blue ‘N’ Boogie.” In his book Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, Donald L. Maggin says, “Dizzy created a complex arrangement for ‘Groovin’ High,’ which became one of his most enduring hits; it encompasses a six-bar introduction, three key changes, transition passages between solos, and a half-speed coda as it demonstrates his skill in fashioning interesting textures using only six instruments.”


More on Dizzy Gillespie at JazzBiographies.com

Gary Giddins in his book Visions of Jazz: The First Century claims, “Dizzy once said he might have gotten the idea for ‘Groovin’s High’ from a childhood matinee serial (starring Yakima Canutt, he thought) that had ‘Whispering’ as the theme song--a poetic and perhaps calculated juxtaposition of eras and cultures that agreeably disguises the scope of his sorcery.”

In his book Inside Jazz Leonard Feather says, “The last four trumpet measures of ‘Groovin’ High’ later provided Tadd Dameron with part of the theme for a beautiful ballad recorded by Sarah Vaughan, ‘If You Could See Me Now.’”

The following March of 1945 Dizzy recorded the tune again, this time fronting a quintet featuring Charlie Parker. According to Maggin, “The reworking of ‘Groovin’ High’ makes one important change in the complex arrangement. Dizzy curtailed his chorus to allow [guitarist Remo] Palmieri a short improvisation. Again, Dizzy and Bird managed a magical unison theme statement, and each performed intricate melodic improvisations over the unvarying swing rhythm.”

In December, 1945, Dizzy recorded the tune again at Billy Berg’s club in Los Angeles with Stan Levey, Ray Brown, Charlie Parker, and Al Haig (Milt Jackson was on the gig but laid out for this tune). “Freed from the three-minute constraints of the 78 rpm record, the musicians stretched out on tracks that ran for roughly five minutes. They were all in top form as they provided a fitting climax to a year of stellar bebop recordings,” says Maggin.

Dizzy and Bird, backed by John Lewis, Al McKibbon, and Joe Harris, performed “Groovin’ High” on September 29, 1947, to an appreciative audience at Carnegie Hall. By the ‘50s Gillespie was touring the world and was received by enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1952) and Brazil (1956). In 1982 he and Stan Getz performed “Groovin’ High” at the White House.

- Sandra Burlingame

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