Delmark continues to celebrate its Golden Anniversary with a release of bebop classics from 1944 through 1998. This collection offers a curious cross-section from early Sir Charles Thompson ("Street Beat," 1945) to late Bud Powell ("Rifftide," 1962). The music captured here is stranger, more organic, and often more authentic than most recorded by the larger labels. This lends the collection a certain piquant sound like sparks cracking out of a wood fire.
Coleman Hawkins and Dizzie Gillespie romp through "Woody’n You," which perfectly illustrates both faces of Hawkins, one firmly entrenched in the Swing Era and the other traveling light-speed through bebop. Francine Griffin scats her way through "Anthropology," singing a congener of "I Got Rhythm," the harmonic parent of the Gillespie/Parker composition.
The Bud Powell here is certainly not his best, the pianist’s mental and physical illnesses well advanced by the early 1960s. But that may not be the way to look at this music, critically in performance. "Rifftide" can certainly represent the larger art and history of the music in the same way that one can listen to late Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker’s Dial "Loverman." All of this music comes with a story and the story is told through it.
As one would assume, the newer pieces possess better sonics than the older pieces. Not that this matters much. Most early Charlie Parker records sound as grainy as photographs of the saxophonist look. Thus, while the sound is a bit on the muddy side, little listening pleasure is lost. These pieces are like the sepia photographs in the family trunk. There to be dusted off and treasured on Bop Lives!