Black US jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and one of the founders of modern jazz in the mid-1940s.
Born in Cheraw, South Carolina, he learnt to play the trumpet from his father. By 1955 he had become a professional musician, replacing his idol Roy Eldridge (1911–89) in Teddy Hill's band in 1937. In 1939 he was engaged by Cab Calloway as composer and arranger as well as trumpet player. From 1941 to 1943 he worked in several bands, also playing in jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse, where Teddy Hill led the house band and where the new jazz style of bop was emerging. In 1944 he was appointed musical director of the first big bop band, led by singer Billy Eckstine. This influential band did not record because of a musicians' strike but the next year Gillespie made some of the first bop records, with Charlie Parker. His own first band failed but the second was more successful (1946–50). Since then he has toured the world almost annually, often with a quintet. However, whenever it is possible he forms a big band to play at the major jazz festivals.