Thursday, July 26, 2012

Parker, Gillespie, Powell, Roach, Mingus – Jazz at Massey Hall

   Probably the best parts of Charlie Parker’s discography are recordings of his live performances. Between many of his phenomenal recordings some are really best pretenders to be considered “the greatest jazz concert ever”. One of them was really sold under this slogan. It was album published in 1953 called Jazz at Massey Hall. It is 4th album in catalogue of America Records (6053). It is recording of public concert which took place in Massey Hall Toronto on May 15, 1953. The lineup of this concert was a real all stars quintet consisted of best jazz musicians not only this time – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. This recording became immediate success. It was republished in many editions as a vol. 4 of Parker’s series under the Saga Eros label (ERO 8031), as Charlie Parker All Stars Jam under Jazz World label (JW 77007) and in many other editions.
   This was the highest moment for compliance of bebop. After the radio ban was ended in 1945, bebop became fast growing wave of new culture. It was much more than new style only. The post-war shock leading to a different perspective not only on society, economy, and politics but also in the music has made new attitude possible. What was hipster before the war, become intellectual and socially radical in early fifties. This was new space for avant-garde searching’s for new means of expression. What is important, this time there was no place for empty aesthetical gesture and artists were trying to create their own vision of human condition. Some of most radical musicians have seen their destiny in modern jazz, which was freeing this time from dance music. Charlie Parker and musicians playing in his All Stars were avant-garde of this trend.

Charlie Parker – Jazz at Massey Hall (1953)

   The interesting feature of this recording is Parker’s instrument. In Toronto he played on Grafton saxophone – plastic instrument patented in 1945 and produced through the fifties in London. In May 1953 Parker in radio broadcast explained he was looking for different sound. In fact he was bound by the contract not to play any other instrument during concerts in US, so performance in Toronto was challenging opportunity. And generally the instrument sounds very good, sometimes maybe it’s too dark, but this can be an intentional effect. Parker was not quite happy with it and sold this instrument in pawnshop. In 1994 it was bought in Christie’s auction for £ 93500 and now is in possession of American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, the hometown of Charlie Parker.
   Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are soloists in long term artistic partnership. They complement each other in how they sounding, how they create solos and build emotional impact. This time there were no division on melodic instruments and rhythmic section, whole group was creating musical narratives. Since Perdido, where loosely constructed, full of invention solos played Parker, Gillespie and Bud Powell, Parker and Gillespie play with dialoguing half improvised sections. And this is exploding in quite modern way in Salt Peanuts. After Parker-Gillespie duo play, Powell plays solo and then Max Roach has his legendary drums solo. All the Things You Are is beautiful opposition to energetic program of this concert with beautiful solos and even improvising correspondence with soloing Mingus. Phrases in Parker’s solo can be seen as his revelation.
   Bud Powell and Max Roach played beautiful solos in Wee – both are hot and modern. The same one can say about first solo in Hot House played by Charlie Parker with strong emotional background. After this solo Dizzy Gillespie played more intellectually and with some distance – then Powell gave his show with virtuoso discipline, subsequenced with next perfect solo by Mingus. His double-bass solo in Hot House was quite rare this time. Last solos on this album are just revelation of something would happen in later years. Every one Parker, Gillespie and Powell played their solos like they were just opening for next decade, for hard-bop and free, for Coltrane and Coleman. Auditorium reactions for Powell’s solo show how this message was clear in 1954.

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