DIZZY GILLESPIE — Dizzy Gillespie - Charlie Parker ‎: Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (review)

DIZZY GILLESPIE — Dizzy Gillespie - Charlie Parker ‎: Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 album cover Live album · 2005 · Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
When this full concert of Gillespie and Parker's quintet surfaced in 2005 it was a major event. A complete and previously unknown concert recording of Bird and Diz in New York in the spring of 1945 with full length performances (not limited by the short running time of 78RPM records) was the jazz equivalent of finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazingly, the acetate discs on which the concert was recorded were found in an antique store nearly 60 years later.

The Town Hall concert captures Gillespie and Parker, along with Max Roach, Al Haig and Curley Russell, as they were just beginning to take over the jazz world. Chronologically, this gig fell right in the middle of a run of studio dates that would produce the foundational texts of bebop: Groovin' High, Dizzy Atmosphere, Bebop, A Night In Tunisia and many more were all recorded in this period, some of them not yet released at the time of the concert.

The show was produced by the jazz DJ Symphony Sid Torin, and he starts off the proceedings with a spoken introduction that sounds painfully corny to modern ears. (Torin returns throughout the program. His introductions feel more like interruptions, but for better or worse, his presence helps put the listener "in the moment.") Then the music blasts off with Bebop taken at a blistering tempo. At first the horns are inaudible, but the engineer quickly got the levels dialed in, and for the rest of the concert the sound quality is surprisingly good for a 1945 live tape. The quintet comes charging out of the gate with Gillespie showing off his virtuosity and Roach dropping bass drum bombs all over the place. Don Byas also takes a sax solo on Bebop, sitting in briefly for Bird, who was running late! In the middle of Byas's solo the audience starts applauding spontaneously, signaling that the Yardbird was in the house. Parker took the next solo and nearly lit the room on fire.

The intensity level never flags through the different tempos. Bird and Diz were playing with tremendous energy and creativity, with each one picking up his solos right where the other left off. Dizzy shouts encouragement while Bird wails on A Night In Tunisia before peeling off his own red hot solo. The tempo launches back into the stratosphere for Salt Peanuts, including an extended solo by Roach. Sid Catlett sits in on drums for the last couple of numbers, and he must have been a fan favorite because he was greeted with raucous applause. Catlett gets his own solo feature on Hot House before the quintet ends with a short version of what was already the traditional closing number of the bop era, Thelonious Monk's 52nd Street Theme.

The concert was issued only on CD by the independent label Uptown Records. The liner notes include an essay by Ira Gitler about the concert and his memories of the early days of bebop, along with plenty of photos, reproductions of contemporary ads and press clippings about the concert, and notes on how the recordings were finally found.

The 1953 Massey Hall concert is probably the best known live document of Bird and Dizzy together. By the time of that recording they were major stars of jazz and exerting influence on all who followed. But on the Town Hall concert of 1945, we can hear Parker and Gillespie in extended performances for the first time when they were still young and hungry, two young lions about to set the jazz world on fire.
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