‘Night in Tunisia,’ Dizzy Gillespie



Dizzy Gillespie grew up in Cheraw, S.C., in the ’20s and ’30s and established himself as a major figure in the jazz world — a key figure in the development of bebop — in the ’40s and ’50s. In 1965, he settled in Englewood, and remained there until his death in 1993, at the age of 75.

Below is a clip of him performing one of his most famous songs, “Night in Tunisia,” at the New Jersey Summer Festival at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in Freehold, in 1987. Joining him are bassist John Lee, drummer Ignacio Berroa, saxophonist Sam Rivers and guitarist Ed Cherry.

His set was later released as a DVD, “Dizzy Gillespie: Live at New Jersey Summer Festival, 1987.”

The song was not inspired by an actual night in Tunisia (a country in Northern Africa), by the way, but got the name because of its exotic flavor. “I never cared what people called it as long as they played it,” Gillespie wrote in his 1979 memoir, “To Be, or Not … to Bop.” “Some genius decided to call it ‘A Night in Tunisia,’ which sounded quite appropriate, and people have been calling it ‘Night in Tunisia’ ever since.”

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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