218

Various Artists: The Complete Jazz At The Philharmonic On Verve 1944 - 1949

By

Sign in to view read count
When Norman Granz produced his first Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP) concert at Los Angeles’ Philharmonic Hall in July 1944, he had already been promoting jam sessions in Los Angeles for two years, with such players as Nat “King” Cole, tenorist Lester Young, trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, among others. He began recording the JATP concerts and issued these recordings from the first, thus preserving the atmosphere of the jam session which he brought to its most formal venue, the concert stage. A trove of these recordings are included in a 10-CD release from Verve Records, to be released in late October: THE COMPLETE JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC ON VERVE 1944 - 1949. It’s a startling inventory of great music, audience enthusiasm, emceeing from another era, occasional longeurs, and spotlights on brilliant talents both celebrated and largely ignored.

The fidelity of the recordings seems pretty accurate for live performance of the era, much better than, say, what the Charlie Parker enthusiast has to contend with. But Parker himself has some great solos over the five year span, including the justly celebrated “Lady Be Good” of 1946, which paralyzed his fellow blowers, so that the bassist got an unexpected chorus before Lester Young came in. Among the beboppers, the brilliant trumpeter Howard McGhee plays some dazzling episodes, and pianist Hank Jones has galvanizing solos, as does Oscar Peterson. Trombonist J. J. Johnson plays with passion and customary facility. Dizzy Gillespie makes a few memorable appearances, including a jam on “Sweet Georgia Brown” with Parker and Lester Young. Ray Brown gets a rare bass solo. But the musicians are largely those formed by the previous era, still going strong in the 1940’s, and the list of participants is an honor roll of the swing era and its aftermath: tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Illinois Jacquet, altoist Willie Smith, trumpeters Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers and Buck Clayton, singers Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and the jiving vocalist Slim Gaillard, humming bassist Slam Stewart, drummers Sid Catlett, Jo Jones, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

There isn’t really a “typical” CD, since new surprises keep appearing. Disc 5, with four to eight soloists each on “Bugle Call Rag,” a blues, “Lady Be Good,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “Slow Drag,” performances lasting on average eight minutes and featuring such as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Buck Clayton, and the elegant forgotten pianist Kenny Kersey, also includes the Gene Krupa Trio with Charlie Ventura, tearing it up on “The Man I Love,” and this last then beautifully sung by Billie Holiday, still in good voice as she is throughout, in a group of four brief vocal performances by her. And so they come and go, Holiday on several scattered CD’s; Lester Young sometimes soloing in front of the band, sometimes fronting a small combo, and Coleman Hawkins the same; trombonist Bill Harris making a few appearances with his usual verve; I’d run out of breath before I could name all the great players who make memorable appearances.

The audience is also a point of interest and a contributor. While rarely an annoyance, as when it tries to clap in time double rudeness, because it’s _on_ the beat and anyway _out_ of time mostly it’s wildly enthusiastic in a way I’ve never seen at a jazz concert, yelling, whistling, applauding like mad after solos, at apposite moments in solos, at the start of a recognized solo, and just generally in between tunes. They’re having a great time and some of this gets to me, so that I can almost see Illinois Jacquet preaching, Jacquet with his climactic sax screams perhaps the quintessential JATP performer, bringing the house down several times seemingly every time he steps up.

Altogether it’s a great collection. History isn’t recreated on matchbook covers, and while 10 CD’s may seem like overkill, there’s enough material here to justify it, as the changing styles of the era parade through the sound system. Verve has done a splendid job in packaging it, with a booklet well over 200 pages including solo-by-solo track list, extensive discography, song-by-song and player-by-player indices, brief performer biographies, JATP itinerary, essays on various matters, and an interview by Nat Hentoff with Norman Granz, who appears to have gone into the concert tour game in large part to fight racial segregation. Surely some of that righteous faith rubbed off on these performers, who seem so motivated to give it all to the audiences that their excitement and creativity still gives a charge, fifty years later.

| Record Label: Verve Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Solo Plus" CD/LP/Track Review Solo Plus
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 4, 2016
Read "Spring Feelings" CD/LP/Track Review Spring Feelings
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 20, 2016
Read "Roots & Transitions" CD/LP/Track Review Roots & Transitions
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 4, 2016
Read "Clockwork" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwork
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "Clarinet (& Piano)" CD/LP/Track Review Clarinet (& Piano)
by John Eyles
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "No Parking Any Time" CD/LP/Track Review No Parking Any Time
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 12, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!