Simply put, "Complete Jazz at Massey Hall" contains one of three essential Charlie Parker concerts now available on CD, the May 15, 1953 concert at Massey Hall. Only seven tracks here (the first four and the last three) feature Parker (with Dizzy Gillespie on...
Simply put, "Complete Jazz at Massey Hall" contains one of three essential Charlie Parker concerts now available on CD, the May 15, 1953 concert at Massey Hall.
Only seven tracks here (the first four and the last three) feature Parker (with Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Charles Mingus on bass, and Max Roach on drums); one track (#5) is a self-contained drum solo (by Roach), and six tracks (#6-#11) are trio pieces featuring the incomparable Bud P (with Mingus & Roach).
The extraordinary trio pieces alone would make this CD worthwhile, but Bird & Diz are simply amazing on at least five of the seven quintet pieces (of the remaining two, "All the Things You Are" is a bit of a mess, and "52nd Street Theme" is less than 45 seconds long).
This Massey Hall CD (a Spanish import from the Jazz Factory, which also produced the indispensible "Bud Powell: Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions") features sound quality which, while nowhere near perfect, is surprisingly clear, bright, and present, and actually superior to the sound on two other essential Parker concerts, the May 15/16, 1950 Birdland concert (with Parker, Powell, Fats Navarro, Curley Russell, and Art Blakey), and the Sept 29, 1947 Carnegie Hall concert (with CP, Gillespie, John Lewis, Al McKibbon, and Joe Harris).
While the remastered sound of the 1947 Carnegie Hall concert is particularly appealing on the "Charlie Parker: The Complete Live Performances on Savoy" box set, the piano is very poorly miked, so much so you barely hear John Lewis at all. Which leaves a gap, a hole, in a song like "Confirmation," where you''re listening through the inaudible piano solo, waiting for the real music making to return. Still, we have five quintet pieces from Carnegie that are among Parker''s greatest live performances.
The sound quality of the May 1950 Birdland concert on "Charlie Parker at Birdland, Vol. 1" is clearly the worst of the three concerts, but the music making is electric. Bud Powell is on fire at Birdland--his inventiveness is at least the equal of Parker''s. Which is to say, it is among the most masterful, the most intricate, the most engaging in the history of jazz. Indeed, it is Powell''s playing, in particular, that keeps me coming back again and again to the Birdland concert--or maybe it''s the way in which Powell and Parker and Navarro seem to be feeding off one another; all three are on fire, all three are playing at the very peak of their powers, and so you begin to feel immersed in the brilliance of the invention as it surrounds you on all three sides, alto sax, trumpet, and piano.
By contrast, the Massey and Carnegie concerts are principally about the soaring brilliance of two musicians: Bird and Diz, even though Powell himself is present at Massey Hall. Don''t get me wrong, Bud P in 1953 (or 1950) is almost always brilliant, and his playing at Massey Hall is clearly exceptional, but it is in the trio pieces at Massey where Powell really shines.
Some might argue that there is a fourth essential Parker concert on CD: the recently unearthed recording of the June 22, 1945 concert at Town Hall (with CP, Gillespie, Don Byas, Al Haig, Curley Russell, Max Roach & Sid Catlett). And while the playing at Town Hall is indeed brilliant (and while the recording itself has major historical significance), I don''t think it''s nearly as compelling, nor as essential, as the playing at Massey Hall in 1953, Carnegie Hall in 1947, or Birdland in 1950.
All of which is to say, while there are numerous Parker concerts I enjoy listening to (such as the Royal Roost concerts in 1948 & 1949, the amazing pick-up concert in Chicago on October 23, 1950, as well as the seminal 1945 Town Hall concert), I don''t think I could do without the concerts at Massey or Carnegie or Birdland.