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The quintet was composed of several leading modern players of the day: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. It was the only time that the five men recorded together as a unit, and it was the last recorded meeting of Parker and Gillespie. Parker played a Grafton saxophone on this date; he could not be listed on the original album cover for contractual reasons, so was billed as "Charlie Chan" (an allusion to the fictional detective and to Parker's wife Chan). The record was originally issued on Mingus' label Debut, from a recording made by the Toronto New Jazz Society (Dick Wattam, Alan Scharf, Roger Feather, Boyd Raeburn and Arthur Granatstein). Mingus took the recording to New York where he and Max Roach dubbed in the bass lines, which were under-recorded on most of the tunes, and exchanged Mingus soloing on "All the Things You read more...
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THE QUINTET Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 1 (aka The Quintet Of The Year -Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 1) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 1 (aka The Quintet Of The Year -Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 1)
Bop 1953
THE QUINTET Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 3 (aka Quintet Of The Year ‎– Jazz At The Massey Hall Vol. 3) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz at Massey Hall, Vol. 3 (aka Quintet Of The Year ‎– Jazz At The Massey Hall Vol. 3)
Bop 1953

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THE QUINTET Jazz at Massey Hall (aka The Quintet of the Year) album cover 4.67 | 2 ratings
Jazz at Massey Hall (aka The Quintet of the Year)
Bop 1956

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THE QUINTET Jazz at Massey Hall (aka The Quintet of the Year)

Boxset / Compilation · 1956 · Bop
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
This is the sort of album that's an instant-purchase for any jazz fan as soon as they catch a glimpse of the roster: Charlie Parker playing alto, unsurprisingly, and with him he's got Bud Powell on piano, Mingus on bass, Max Roach on drums, and, of course, his partner in crime, the yin to his yang, Dizzy Gillespie on the trumpet - especially notable as it's the last known recording of Bird and Diz playing together.

While such an amazing line-up would suggest possibly the greatest recording in the history of live music, it is not without its flaws. The show itself was a nightmare, with everything falling apart - to start with, it was poorly attended, as it coincided with a major boxing match, which drew much more attention - including Diz, who kept rushing backstage during the performance to see if he could catch some of the TV broadcast. Meanwhile, Bird and Bud were both heavily intoxicated, and the show was completely unrehearsed - complicated even more by the fact that this was some time after Bird and Diz had their falling out, having hardly even spoken to each other, let alone played together, since. The recording itself was allegedly set up by Mingus, however due to some grounding issues the quality is quite low and Mingus' own bass playing is at times even inaudible. Some pressings feature Mingus dubbing over the tracks at a later date, but fans seem divided on whether they prefer this over the original bass.

But don't let all this deter you - despite all the issues, the band knocked it out of the park and there's some fantastic music to be heard on this album. The album can essentially be divided into three parts, depending on which version you have: Part 1, three cuts with the full band; Part 2, a twenty-five minute set of just the rhythm section, and Part 3, in which the horns rejoin for a few closing numbers.

Part 1 is possibly the highlight of the album. It opens up with two bop tours-de-force; Perdido and Salt Peanuts, which feature fiery trumpet work from Diz and such laid-back virtuosity from Bird that perhaps the greater miracle than him even playing it is the way he does so with such an easy, relaxed feel. Bud Powell is no slouch, either, delivering both unbelievable solos and tasteful accompaniment, while Mingus and Roach are in the back, guarding the beat with their lives, giving the band a rock-solid foundation to build on - and Roach's solo on Salt Peanuts is a wild display of his skill. These two are followed by All The Things You Are - and this particular recording of this well known standard has come to be known as the definitive version. The band takes the blazing fury that it brought to the first two tracks and swaps it out for a delicate soulfulness. Its electrifying conclusion segues immediately into a brief rendition of the 52nd Street Theme - the symbol of all things be-bop, and the perfect anthem for such a night.

As said above, Part 2 (which is only on some versions) features only Bud, Mingus and Roach. While it is a stellar showcase for the rhythm section and excellent listening for anyone who prefers piano-driven jazz, the quintet is obviously the highlight of the album. As enjoyable as this section is, the listener still awaits the return of Bird and Diz with anticipation.

And return they do, for Part 3, with Wee, the bop classic Hot House, and, of course, the quintessential Gillespie piece A Night in Tunisia - quite fitting, as its a Diz composition popularized by Bird. These tracks are three more blazing bop standards, and even by the end of the night the band is still in top form. The final cut, in particular, is an excellent rendition of the tune and features some fine playing from all involved.

All in all, despite all the drama, the lack or preparation, and the poor sound quality, this nonetheless stands out as one of the greatest live jazz recordings of all time.

THE QUINTET Jazz at Massey Hall (aka The Quintet of the Year)

Boxset / Compilation · 1956 · Bop
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Arguably the greatest jazz band ever assembled, The Quintet never rehearsed, played only one concert and released only one recording, an unprofessional recording of that one concert. The concert itself seemed to happen more by accident than design and was poorly attended on top of that. The New Jazz Society of Toronto, who sponsored the show, had overlooked the fact that a major boxing match was going down that night and so they were not able to draw enough people to pay the musicians in full. To compensate for the lack of pay, the Jazz Society offered the musicians this sub-standard recording which they had made through the microphones in their PA system. In an attempt to make the recording more professional, Charles Mingus re-recorded his bass and did a good job of that difficult task.

Needless to say, the recording itself is not great, Parker and Diz come through okay, but the drums sound vague and the piano sounds like it is down the hall, but at least both come through good enough to hear. Apparently the bass is in-audible in the originals, but comes through loud and clear in the versions Mingus re-recorded. Despite the poor recording, the music on here is as great as can be expected. For fans of high octane bop, Diz and Bird deliver the goods on “Salt Peanuts” and “Wee” and show why no one will ever equal what they were capable of. “Night in Tunsia” is abstract and modern and points to the future in jazz and the rest of the tunes are great swingin numbers that show everyone’s lyrical side, but especially Bird seems to shine the brightest on these.

In 1953, when this concert went down, bop was in its last years and you can hear sounds of the future here and there. Mingus and Roach play a hard deliberate groove on the mid-tempo numbers that announces the coming of hard bop. Throughout the concert, Parker and Powell push their solos into abstract and almost free areas. The band’s treatment of “All the Things You Are” shows how creative they could be with an otherwise over played standard.

Despite the poor recording, this record is great. Five of the greatest musicians ever performing in top form and obviously having a great time with it. In an interesting side note, this would be Diz and Bird’s last recording together.

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