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One night in the 60s, pianist Mike Longo and his trio were playing between Dizzy Gillespie's sets at the Embers, a now defunct supper club on New York's East Side. During Longo's set Gillespie watched from the audience. He had seen the young pianist play before, and even mentioned him as an up and coming musician in an interview. He looked up at me and he mouthed the words 'I love you', Longo recalled.
The musical and personal relationship lasted 27 years, nine of which Longo shared the stage with Gillespie as his pianist and musical director. Their families were very close (Longo was a pallbearer at Gillespie's wife Lorraine's funeral last month), and he was at Gillespie's side the night before he died. I went to the hospital, it was the last time he was conscious, he recalled. Dizzy looked up at us and (Longo put his finger to his lips, and blew out his cheeks).