In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. The group included saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Davis, 18, joined the band as third trumpet for a couple of weeks. Not a bad way to get your start as a jazz musician.
The role of Gillespie is not essential to the film, but it’s necessary – we’re talking a couple scenes (preferably a performance) to show how Gillespie taught Davis, and many of the young musicians on 52nd Street, about the new style of modern jazz (not too mention life as a professional).
I’m a fan of Dizzy’s music, and he just seemed like a person you’d want to spend a day with talking about life, music and whatever else. I think of the Quincy Jones part in “Ray” (played by Larenz Tate); I believe the character was in two or three scenes, but they were an important part of the narrative.
Plus, the right actor can really knock the role out of the park because of Dizzy’s inherent charm, style and showmanship.