When recordings of bebop first burst forth in the mid-1940s their sound was like the proverbial shot heard round the world. "I was speaking to [trumpeter] Thad Jones," Dizzy Gillespie recalled with amusement. "He was in the army down in Hawaii [in 1945] and he heard 'Shaw Nuff' for the first time and he said he fell out of his bunk and laughed all night. His jaws were sore for laughing so much and he said, 'Finally it's here.'"

Gillespie will be featured in a free concert this afternoon at 3 in Constitution Hall with the Airmen of Note, the 18-member jazz ensemble of the Air Force band. Among the charts to be performed will be "Manteca" and "A Night in Tunisia."

"It was only a matter of evolution," says Gillespie of the changes that wrought modern jazz four decades ago. "That is the story of our music. Each age has its heroes. I was the hero of the '40s, someone else for the '50s, another for the '60s... The music of Charlie Parker and me laid a foundation for all the music that is being played now, you see. I feel very fine about that, you know, that I've been an influence for musicians to go further."

This mixture of humility and unselfconscious awareness of his artistic importance is characteristic of the great trumpet player from Cheraw, S.C. He is convinced that "our music is going to be the classical music of the future" but he cautions that "it's not old enough yet to be classic -- it takes a little time."