Dizzy Gillespie has been gone for over two decades now. Thankfully, the trumpeter's rich and bright legacy lives on in the teeming numbers of jazz musicians who worked with the legend. In fact, it is difficult to find any notable jazz musician who has been kicking around jazz clubs for a while who lacks a collaboration with the bandleader on their resume.
Organizers of Bend's Jazz at The Oxford series should know; booking them is a regular occurrence, and this week's performances by heralded singer Mary Stallings on Feb. 21 and 22 is no exception. She joins past performers like Javon Jackson and Diane Schuur and bassist Ed Bennett, who will take the stage again with Stallings.
In a genre where artists obsess with working alongside other musicians—even reserving large chunks of bios to list those projects—who you've worked with seems to carry a validation of talent. Certainly, listing work with Gillespie is code for: I've learned from the best.
Even so, Stallings would be fine without the name drop.
Though she likely owes the second half of her career in jazz to Gillespie—he's the one who convinced her to come out of early retirement and join him for a South American tour—Stallings has been touted by publications like the New York Times as the greatest jazz singer of all time. Her discovery doesn't appear to be solely tied to her past tours with Gillespie.
With effortless gospel chops that glance off the blues and sit right in that comfortable alto range, like a sultry sax or a sighing cello, Stalling slinks in and out of slow burning ballads and up tempo bebop tunes with impeccable timing. Almost without notice, she lifts her voice out of greased—almost scat-like—lyrics to reach for smooth vibratos and calming, drawn out notes as she sings (typically) about love.
A true talent all by herself, it's not as though her time with Gillespie didn't impact her profoundly. Stallings says it did.
"Working with [Gillespie] was wonderful because he's a great teacher without having to tell you anything," commented Stallings during a 2012 interview with The Capital City Hues. "He always loved to pick your mind to see what you liked and what your feelings were about the music."
Mary Stallings Quartet
8 pm. Friday, Feb. 21
5 pm. Saturday, Feb. 22
8:15 pm. Saturday, Feb. 22
The Oxford Hotel
10 NW Minnesota Ave.
Tickets $49 at bendticket.com