TODAY IS *THE* DAY: 60 YEARS AGO – “THE QUINTET OF THE YEAR” @ MASSEY HALL, TORONTO, MAY 15, 1953

MasseyHall_TheQuintet_12%22_LP_coverThe big sleep, eh? Ah, no problem!

I will post only one track from this famous jazz summit meeting which took place on May 15, 1953 …and everybody will be jumpin’ off their seats:

PERDIDO – John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (tp) Charles Christopher “Bird” Parker (as) Earl “Bud” Powell (p) Charles “Chazzer” Mingus (b) & Maxwell Lemuel “Max” Roach (d).

The concert got recorded privately by the amateur engineers Mr. Mingus & Mr. Roach at Massey Hall, Toronto, on May 15, 1953. After dubbing his bass (’cause he was not satisfied with his sound), Charles Mingus published the recorded results on two 10″-LP’s on his Debut label in 1955.

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You now lean back and enjoy Juan Tizol’s “Perdido”, and then go and buy those CD’s, the only digital releases which contain the complete concert in its unedited form, and in the correct order of the program:

Jazz At Massey Hall (#1)

Jazz At Massey Hall (#2)

Here’s release #2 for German customers

…or this older issue with splendid liners, but the order of the program not yet corrected:

COMPLETE JAZZ AT MASSEY HALLMasseyHall_h_booklet_6_front

It’s a happy, but also a bitter-sweet event which happened 60 years ago. This concert has made the final point of the revolutionary bebop era which lasted ’round ten years.

MasseyHall_The_Quintet_in_actionJust take your time and think of Bird on altosax, Diz on trumpet, Bud on piano, “Mingus-Fingus” at the bass and Max on drums.

Listen to the beautiful All The Things You Are (it’s the 2nd track from the concert I spontaneously decided to post too) where a totally drunken Bud Powell tries to react to Dizzie’s cup-muted trumpet directives.

It’s tragic, but it’s glorious at the same time.

Bird – listed on the LP releases as “Charlie Chan”😉 – can be heard on plastic alto. He liquified it. And he made ’em scream for more.

And Dizzy? He seemed to be a bit distracted at first… by a boxing match which was going on simultaneously. But as soon as he became aware of the mercilessly wailing Bird, he stopped clowning around and set fire to Yardbird’s ass, and the hall.

That’s all.

At first we could hear Graham Topping’s Big Band (unfortunately not recorded), playing 11 tunes. Then we have the quintet with a furious, almost wrecked “Wee” (a.k.a. “Allen’s Alley”), “Hot House”, where they started getting their stuff together, and “A Night In Tunisia”, featuring one of Bud’s greatest solos ever. – Intermission with Max Roach’s “Drum Conversation”, enthusiastically approved by the crowd.

MasseyHall_BudPowellTrio_Lp_cover_bThen comes the trio, doing a fine set with the rhumba-like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, Bud’s famous arrangement of “Embraceable You”, a short but “Sure Thing”, *the* bebop hymn “Cherokee”, the old warhorse “Hallelujah”, and – Bud’s theme at his Birdland gigs – Sir George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” (which is based on “Love Me Or Leave Me”).

Then the quintet again with “Perdido” (dig Diz!), “Salt Peanuts” (dig Bird, responding to Diz’s encouraging shouts!) & the highlight (in my opinion) “All The Things You Are”, followed by a chaotic “52nd Street Theme” which closes the globe’s last set of pure bebop; it was also the very last quintet meeting of Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie.

THE END — ? — No!

Epilogue: The Big Band again with three (unrecorded) tunes and a blues (also not taped) where the quintet with the exception of Bud joined the others.

The rest is history, as is the overdubbed bass line of Charles Mingus which could be digested on the LP. …Better not!

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Bud Powell plays an encore: Embraceable You (the 3rd track, included here spontaneously because it’s so beautiful!).

P.S. — Thank you so much for this splendid article. Man, I can’t tell you how often I have listened to this concert; and I’m really happy now, that there are CD’s, containing the original recordings without Mingus’ sometimes really too loud overdubbing.

Anyway, I still think that Bud was loaded. But not enough, because he plays great … when it comes to his improvisations. Dizzy was never happy with Bud’s comping.

OK, there are some (minor) irritations when you’re listening closely. At “All The Things You Are” – which is one of the best numbers of the whole concert – Bud gets completely lost during Dizzy’s solo. At the most far-out point, Dizzy tenderly quotes the theme for getting Bud on the right track again.

But this is definitely no “problem”, or a flaw. It’s a very interesting, an adventurous moment, a great example for what’s jazz all about in the first place:

Communication, about listening to your fellow musicians, it’s all about that.

As suspected: “Wee” was the first number they played that evening, as chaotic as it sounds. They had no rehearsals. They used that speedy intro for warming up.

As I wrote at my blog: It was “Hot House” where they all had their stuff together. From then on, everything magically fell into place.

And Dizzy’s “clowning”?

Hey, they still were friends, “partners in crime”, so to speak. When it came to music, Dizzy took it dead-serious. Just listen to *all* his solos: Pure genius, thoughtful, and well conceived; jazz improvisation at its best.

And Bird? As usual: There’s nothing, musically, which could have irritated him. He played his top game, and it was always “a home run”, as Red Rodney told an interviewer.

— Why I think that “Wee” could be the 1st tune they performed with the quintet?

It’s obvious that there are a lot of formal problems occurring during this number, perhaps due to the incredibly fast pace of the performance. Again: They had no time to rehearse.

You’ve made a point with “Perdido”, it’s a nice tune for warming up. But Mingus can be heard, playing “Hot House” (together with Lionel Hampton & Theodore ‘Fats’ Navarro), which proofs that he had no problems with the tune(s).

Mingus’ main problem was his own sound on the tracks, not the music itself (otherwise he would have never released it, right?).

Anyway, here are two recent releases of the concert (#2 has a 16-page booklet); both have the tracks listed with reversed sets:

Although there is no “hard proof” for this order, I’d rather believe that the quintet wanted to start their 1st set with a screamer, an exclamation mark, disregarding the lack of a rehearsal. They were pros, and they knew: “Now, or never!”

They finished their 2nd set with “52nd Street Theme”, which also hints to the “reversed-sets-theory”.

After all, it’s the music that counts. May everyone program their CD-players as they like. This is timeless jazz, and there still will be people listening to it in a hundred years from now.

MasseyHall_e_booklet_3

The Quintet Of The Year — Jazz At Massey Hall — In The Supposedly Correct Order

Suggested by Peter Losin & Jazz Disco.org
Realized by Bruno Leicht

Dizzy Gillespie (tp, voc) Charlie Parker (as, voc) Bud Powell (p) Charles Mingus (b) Max
Roach (d) — “Massey Hall”, Toronto, Canada, May 15, 1953

1st Set

Graham Topping Big Band (11 titles, unrecorded)

2nd Set

Wee a.k.a. Allen’s Alley
Hot House
A Night In Tunisia

3rd Set

Max Roach (solo):

Drum Conversation

Bud Powell Trio:

I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Embraceable You
Sure Thing
Cherokee
Hallelujah a.k.a. Jubilee
Lullaby Of Birdland

4th Set

The Quintet:

Perdido
Salt Peanuts
All The Things You Are
52nd Street Theme

Encore: Jam Blues with the Graham Topping Big Band & The Quintet sans Bud (unrecorded).

This order of the quintet program – as suggested by Peter Losin from plosin.com – sounds quite logical to me, since the formal chaos at “Wee” indicates that this was actually the very first number they played together after years of going mostly separate ways, and not talking to each other, as the liners of the above CD say.

As for “Drum Conversation” and the order of the Bud Powell set which was suggested by JazzDisco.org (see link for Bud’s set): If you’d listen closely to the final applause at the drum solo, and compare it to the applause before “Under My Skin”, you will hear that it’s the same sound.

powell1Bird’s and Bud’s last encounter happened to be exactly three years before “Massey Hall”: “Birdland”, NYC, May 15 & 16, 1950; Fats Navarro was on trumpet (Listen to Ornithology!).

Bird’s and Diz’s last (recorded) meeting before Massey Hall took place also at Birdland, on March 31, 1951.

Bud was again the pianist (Listen to ‘Round Midnight!).

Here are more pictures from the Massey Hall, and a splendid article.

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