Ignoring the truly awful artwork and paucity of information (though you do at least get line-ups here) this is a great way to investigate a wide variety of Dizzy Gillespie's work from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. I didn't own a Dizzy Gillespie record before and this set has given me a good idea of his range, in this period at least, and which aspects of that range are most up my street and worthy of further investigation. And don't let the price put you off in the sound quality department - these may not be the most recent remasters, and certainly don't include any bonus tracks, but the sound is fine for all but obsessive audiophiles.
Brief comments on the albums contained herein (please read between the lines if you like some of the jazz subgenres here more or less than I do):
Bird & Diz (1950)
Short (the 6 tracks here represent three quarters of a 10" lp, the remainder not featuring Gillespie and therefore omitted here) but very sweet - an all-star session reuniting Gillespie with Charlie Parker, also featuring Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich. This is a straight bebop recording by three of its masters at a time when jazz was moving on, with some reviewers disparaging Buddy Rich's drumming style as inappropriate. He sounds fine to me and is in any case one of the greatest drummers ever. Monk gets some very short but utterly distinctive solos in, Bird and Diz are in fine form and it's an essential bebop document which leaves you wanting more.
Have Trumpet Will Excite (1959)
Pretty mainstream small group stuff, good to excellent versions of a selection of standards.
A game of two halves, both with a very strong latin flavour - the first four tracks are a suite featuring a big band playing some very powerful horn charts - really brash, but extremely good too, one of the highlights of the whole set. The second half includes good but not great reinventions of A Night In Tunisia and Caravan with a smaller group and lots of latin percussion, particularly on the latter which features a long and fierce percussion workout.
Sonny Side Up (1957)
Back to the small group hard bop, with not a hint of latin. The album title references the presence of Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins on tenor saxes, and they push the joke still further by starting the album with a very nice version of On The Sunny Side Of The Street, with Dizzy managing a perfectly respectable Louis Armstrong-ish vocal. The rest of the album is very much a blowing session, with The Eternal Triangle particularly strong, featuring a very lengthy section of the two Sonnys swapping superb licks at breakneck tempo before Dizzy and the pianist get a look-in.
Dizzy In Greece (1957)
Not a live album, and not, so far as I know, recorded in Greece. This is my least favourite album here, a big band effort with Dizzy doing a lot of, to my ears, annoyingly poor vocals.
Quite unlike anything else here, this is a kind of third-stream / semi-classical effort featuring Dizzy improvising over a scored brass ensemble including French horns and tubas (and 2 harpists!) as well as the more usual trumpets and trombones (no saxes at all), with all the music composed by trombonist J.J. Johnson. It's an interesting listen, seemingly influenced by Gil Evans - parts are quite reminiscent of Sketches of Spain, though it isn't quite in that league.
Birks' Works (1958)
This is partly from the same session as Dizzy In Greece and features the same line-up. Not really to my taste, though it's certainly preferable to the latter album.
Duets (with Sonny Rollins & Sonny Stitt) (1957)
This seems to be from the same session as Sonny Side Up, however you only get one Sonny at a time here, with Rollins on the first two tracks and Stitt on the other two. Again there's some fantastic blowing here, especially from Rollins on Wheatleigh Hall.
So a very mixed bag, and to me the quality seems as variable as the styles, though that may be partly a question of taste. But there's enough really top quality jazz on here (more than half of it) to make it well worth buying at 7 or 8 quid.