While 50 years of music from Delmark Records is a reason for any jazz or blues fan to celebrate, Bop Lives!
is the kind of low budget sampler you would expect from a lesser label. It appears that all eight tracks were chosen by blindfold and that no special attention was paid to chronology. In fact, Delmark's only connection to several of these tracks is that they bought the licensing rights to the original Apollo Records recordings. But as a loss leader for newbie jazz consumers, Bop Lives!
is a decent collection.
Who's to complain with Coleman Hawkins' groundbreaking "Woody 'N You," the undistilled bebop of pianist Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker on "Street Beat" and the righteous right hand of Bud Powell circa 1962 on the swinging "Rifftide"? It's always great to hear the redoubtable tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and veteran hard bop pianist Harold Mabern trading choruses on Cecil Payne"s "Cuba." The same can be said for the inspired high-speed solos of tenor Jimmy "Night Train" Forrest, guitarist Grant Green and Mabern (again) on the underrated gem "All The Gin Is Gone." The interesting live version of "Blues Walk" by Donald Byrd, from his debut recording in 1955, shows Byrd and Yusef Lateef firmly in the grip of the bebop language, but it's a strange choice for a collection so obviously geared to those new to the bop genre.
Some liner notes would have been a welcome addition to Bop Lives!, but for that privilege you would have probably had to pay full price.