Artifacts: Three Major Jazz Discoveries
Skeptical readers and listeners might think, "Why now are so many previously unreleased, unknown recordings by the jazz elite surfacing?" One might think that the record companies have known about these recordings all along and have chosen the right time, a time when everyone is bored with the same re-re-re-releases, over and over and over again; that they, the listeners, in their jones for something old that is new, would march through rain for unreleased deity.
But, then again, why ask why?
The year 2005 has seen the release of three sets of previously unknown music by musicians included in critic Scott Yanow's list of Jazz Innovators. That alone should pique any jazz enthusiast's interest.
Regardless of how they got here, or what intrigue took place between the recordings and their release, we are honored to have these recordings. Tired of the same old thing...take these for a ride.
Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker
Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945
In the day, the music contained on Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 was not only fresh, it was revolutionary and definitive of change. In spite of this, it is difficult, nay impossible, for contemporary ears to listen to these sides and not say, "one more poorly archived performance of "Night in Tunisia. That is why a shot of context is in order.
The previous May 8th was VE day, the end of World War II in Europe. The war in the Pacific was to rage until its apocalypse on August 8th and rapture on September 2nd. Glenn Miller had been missing since December 15th the year before. In New York City, on 52nd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, jazz was downsizing back to the trios, quartets, and quintets of pre-Swing. The dance era was coming to an end with the war and jazz was returning to its innovative roots by changing everything. The result, "Modern Jazz or "Be Bop, would color jazz for the rest of the 20th Century and beyond.
In February and May 1945 Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker took small groups into the studio and waxed six masterpieces: "Groovin' High, "All the Things You Are, "Dizzy Atmosphere, "Shaw 'Nuff, "Hot House, and "Salt Peanuts. These compositions the great Louis Armstrong would eventually call "Chinese Music." This musical movement is as harmonically different from Swing as Le Sacre Du Printemps is from Le Nozze De Figaro.
Mildly controversial among some critics was the unedited inclusion of Symphony Sid's inciped patter between songs, peppered with the period use of the perjorative "boy" at every turn. In the first place, we cannot critically hold the period hostage to modern political correctness. The conversation is an accurate account of the vernacular of the time, no matter how distasteful. The fact that it today sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard is a tribute to how far we have come from those pre-civil rights days of condesention and oppression. The music, of course, speaks for itself.
In May and June 1945, the New Jazz Foundation sponsored jazz concerts at New York City's Town Hall. This recording is the latter of these performances. While the sonics are not optimum, the electricity generated by Gillespie and Parker at the top of their games is. What John Birks Gillespie and Charles Parker expelled from their horns was genius illuminated by lightening flash. Scintillating might be the best, yet profoundly anemic description of this music. Coleridge encouraged a willing suspension of disbelief in the preface to Lyrical Ballads. I appeal to listeners, to hear this music as if for the first time. This is a musical Burning Bush.
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall