Trentonian (Trenton, N.J.) - October 16, 2008

Dizzy’s daughter pays tribute to dad downtown

Jeanie Bryson plays “The Dizzy Songbook” in Trenton tomorrow night.


Features Editor

TRENTON — Jazz singer Jeanie Bryson was daddy’s little girl. But that didn’t mean John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie’s daughter jumped at the chance to cover her famous trumpet-playing father’s cheek-exploding tunes.

Bryson, who headlines Haberdashery’s red-carpet, gala premiere at the George Washington Ballroom at the Trenton War Memorial (1 Memorial Drive) tomorrow night, tells The Trentonian that it was important to create her own niche first. In fact, Bryson, 50, said it was mom, songwriter Connie Bryson, who influenced her more to become a musician.

“My mom was the major musical influence,” said Bryson, who grew up in East Brunswick and performed for the first time as a teen in Trenton. “She is a great composer and also a lyricist and she helped me form the perspective that I have about music more than anyone else.”

Bryson remembers the quiet times playing chess with dad and the times he was too busy signing autographs and mingling with fans

It wasn’t hard to catch the music bug, though. Bryson said she’d sit backstage at her father’s concert studying the way the players interacted with each other and listening to the jazz pioneers capture the audience with their music.

“A lot of pull toward being a musician, even more so than my father’s musical influence on me, was being with him backstage and watching how the musicians interacted and how close they all were,” she said. “It was like having a second family. Sometimes it’s even your first family.

Bryson’s own solo career did eventually lead her back to dad’s music. In fact, she’ll pay tribute to Dizzy on Friday night, performing “The Dizzy Songbook.” But after more than a decade performing, Bryson didn’t want to just do her father’s music without doing it perfectly and putting a bit of herself in it.

“Every song in the show I picked for its particular relationship to him,” Bryson said. “So some of the songs aren’t songs that he wrote, but songs that he played.”

For instance, Thelonious Monk’s “Round About Midnight” is included in the show because “I remember my father saying that was his favorite song,” Bryson said.


Carmen McRae’s “A Beautiful Friendship” is also part of show because “Dizzy and Carmen were really close and Carmen was his favorite singer and she was my favorite singer growing up,” Bryson said.


“It’s a tribute to Dizzy, the show is,” Bryson said. “And I tell a story in-between each song so people understand why these songs were chosen.”


Friday’s show is from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets cost $49. All-ages.

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