Dizzy Gillespie is renowned as a trumpeter of incredible ability and inimitable style, but his legacy extends far beyond bebop. In 1974, the jazz legend lent his music and his voice to a forward-thinking animated film by husband-and-wife filmmakers John and Faith Hubley.
With its hand-drawn animation and psychedelic colors, "Voyage To Next" oozes nostalgic vibes. But despite being 38-years-old, the film's message -- and its music -- are still quite relevant.
Highlighted on NPR's "A Blog Supreme," the 9-and-a-half-minute-long film touches on a diverse set of themes -- conservation, anti-war and anti-nationalist sentiment, the power of public dialogue and the basic equality of humankind -- all within in a broader message of personal choice and responsibility.
The film explores its subject matter through a non-linear narrative that is a conversation between Mother Earth (voiced by actress Maureen Stapleton) and Father Time (Gillespie). Sometimes the lines feel ad-libbed, but nevertheless poignant. It is perhaps the former quality that saves the latter from seeming too preachy.
Like much of the Hubley oeuvre, "Voyage To Next" employs abstract imagery and draws from mythology and indigenous art to illuminate its points. The film offers an interpretive summation of human history, and takes poetic license to further its central metaphor -- Marco Polo only made part of his return voyage by sea, but, you know, time is a river and we are islands in the stream, right?
The score, written and conducted by Gillespie, features some fantastic jazz scat vocals by Dee Dee Bridgewater, particularly around the 6-and-a-half-minute mark. Gillespie's ethereal soundscape swells, evaporates and creeps back on the listener. It is at once primeval and evolved, emotional and erudite.
"Voyage to Next" was Gillespie's third collaboration with the Hubleys, having previously worked with the couple on the films "The Hat" and "The Hole." The latter, which was their first project together, won an Academy Award in 1962.