26. Dizzy Gillespie / Dizzy Gillespie & the Mitchell-Ruff Duo (1971)
Dizzy plays live at Dartmouth College with the under appreciated duo of Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff. His association with the duo dates to New York in the 1950s where they were often booked in the same clubs. This night, Diz is in top form, very relaxed, and plays some solos that recall his agility from earlier decades, also interjecting humor into bits between songs. Willie Ruff has developed an idiosyncratic, inventive brand of rhythm on the string bass, he also plays elegant music on the French horn that adds brassy class to tracks like "Dartmouth Duo." Most of the set is what I expect from Dizzy ("Woody'n You," some Billy Strayhorn picks, "Con Alma") but there is a beautiful blues in the aptly titled "Blues People" and also an original by Willie Ruff called "Bella Bella" that isn't easily overlooked in the middle of the program. Overall, it's a very strong set from Dizzy Gillespie aged 54, with two very interesting and not often heard "sidemen" wrapping their duo chemistry around the familiarity of another musician. It's a shame this album has gone out of print with no sign of a reissue.