Jazz Music Reviews from boredop

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

Live album · 2005 · Bop
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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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.

JAMES BROWN Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971

Live album · 1992 · Funk
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Love Power Peace is the only official live release from the Godfather of Soul with his most powerful band, the original JBs. The story of their arrival on the scene is the stuff of legend: when James Brown's band quit on him en masse in the middle of a tour, he flew in a young band from Cincinnati called the Pacemakers to replace them. The Pacemakers were rechristened as The JBs, and their work with Brown set a new standard of funkiness. Powered by the Collins brothers, Bootsy on bass and Catfish on guitar, the new group recorded a string of funk classics in the studio, including Sex Machine, Talking Loud and Saying Nothing, Soul Power, Greedy Man, and Super Bad.

The JBs were also incendiary in concert, and the show that became Love Power Peace was captured live in Paris in 1971. But the original JBs parted ways with Brown soon after, and the album was shelved. It was finally issued on CD in 1992, with the full show following on a 3-LP set in 2014. (This review is for the CD mix.) I can't help but wonder if this would have supplanted Live at the Apollo as the essential James Brown live album if it had been released in 1971, because it is an amazing performance.

The band includes the aforementioned Collins brothers, along with funky drummer Jabo Starks (sometimes spelled by second drummer Tiger Martin), backup singer Bobby Byrd, and Fred Wesley on trombone getting most of the horn solos. This band is so tight it's almost difficult to believe - they can switch tempos or stop on a dime based on JB's cues. (Indeed, there is video of this show on Youtube. When I first watched it I was astonished to see that some of the segues between songs which I was sure were edited for the CD were actually played live.) This can be heard right from the opening medley of Brother Rapp and Ain't It Funky Now, as the band adjusts the tempo seamlessly while amping the energy level ever upward. Catfish Collins's guitar solo on Ain't It Funky Now is both a delight and a preview of great moments still to come, while Bootsy lays down the groove in a way seldom heard before or since - often imitated but never duplicated.

The show includes two great ballads (Georgia On My Mind and an incredible rendition of It's A Man's World) but it's never a long wait for this band to get back to givin' up the funk. The centerpiece of the album is a hypnotic 9-minute version of Sex Machine, with Catfish Collins spiraling out line after ecstatic line on the guitar while Brown and Byrd repeat the familar "Get Up, Get On Up" refrain, Starks accents Brown's dance moves from the drums and the audience gets worked into an absolute frenzy. And that energy level never lets up, all the way through the closing medley of Super Bad, Get Up Get Into It Get Involved, and Soul Power. When the concert finally ends, the crowd erupts and chants James Brown's name, and you just might find yourself doing the same.

DANNY BARKER Save the Bones

Album · 1988 · Original New Orleans Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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A marvelous album by the great New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, playing and singing unaccompanied on eleven old standards. This album is filled with Barker's charisma and humor as he performs in a folksy style, allowing the songs to become vehicles for musical storytelling. There are no guitar solos to be found here, but there are plenty of ad libbed vocal asides that will put a smile on your face. The highlight of the album is Barker's performance of St. James Infirmary, perhaps the best version of that old song ever recorded. Barker somehow finds new life in this old chestnut with a slow, bluesy performance, full of improvised surprises and a gravitas that will take your breath away.

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