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Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker: Town Hall, New York City 1945

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This is absolutely a find, a well-recorded (for 1945) live concert of Bird and Diz and Max Roach in peak form. The numbers were quite familiar to these artists at the time ("A Night in Tunisia," "Salt Peanuts," "Groovin' High"), but these are slashingly brilliant versions to be treasured.

Gillespie sounds unusually florid and assured, with his roots in Roy Eldridge's extroverted trumpeting brashly apparent. Bird enters the recording a little late (literally—on the first tune, "Bebop," Don Byas tries bravely to take Parker's place on the bandstand, but then Parker enters halfway through and literally blows Byas into the wings). Parker sounds impassioned, particularly on "Salt Peanuts," where you can hear Dizzy verbally egging him to greater and greater heights of harmonic creativity, with exploding shards of gospel and blues tunes hinted at fleetingly.

If all this sounds nearly too good to be true, there are a few minor glitches. While Max Roach thunderously inspires Bird and Diz on four tunes, Big Sid Cattlet, who plays drums on two tunes, just doesn't have the same flair for this music, not that his lack of flair diminishes the inventiveness of the stars. Pianist Al Haig, who, like bassist Curley Russell, is poorly served by the recording quality, sounds bewildered by the proceedings. And MC Symphony Sid Torin sounds just a little more smarmy and stupid than I've heard him before, playing the useless MC role.

These quibbles aside, I think this is one terrific reissue that cuts—here's the heresy—the Massey Hall concert, even though that hyped event had Bud Powell and Mingus backing the horn titans. Massey Hall to me sounds like Bird and Diz were at one another's throats. This one has them sounding like lovers locked in giddy embrace.

Track Listing: Intro; Bebop; A Night in Tunisia; Groovin' High; Salt Peanuts; Hot House; Fifty-Second Street Theme.

Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Charlie Parker: saxophone; Don Byas: saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Curley Russell: bass; Max Roach: drums; Big Sid Catlett: drums.

Title: Town Hall, New York City 1945 | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Uptown Records


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