Charlie Parker 'Jazz At Massey Hall' LP
In the early months of 1953 the membership of the New Jazz Society of Toronto was polled in order to determine that body’s ideal group of bebop players. Five masters of bebop reunited for a single unforgettable concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall. It was a unique experience in many ways. Getting the musicians to play wasn’t easy either. By that time Bud Powell was in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, coping with one of his bouts of mental illness. He was released by his manager and guardian, Birdland’s owner Oscar Goodstein. When the musicians arrived at the airport, they discovered that they weren’t provided with enough tickets (the organizers hadn’t contemplated the fact that Mingus’ wife Celia and Goodstein would have to travel with the group). As a result, Parker and Gillespie stayed behind and waited for the following flight to Toronto. When the two leaders arrived in Canada, it was discovered that Bird didn’t have a saxophone, so a Grafton plastic alto was borrowed from a local music store! Despite all of the numerous obstacles, the concert produce truly splendid music. Mingus was determined to record the proceedings and brought along his own tape machine which, in retrospect and considering the limitations of the equipment available to him, finally produced an amazingly clear sound. Bud was said to be stone drunk from the first number on. Even more bizarre was the ongoing and famous feud between Parker and Gillespie, with hostilities temporarily suspended for the event. Mingus launched his own short-lived label, Debut Records, with a ten-inch Jazz at Massey Hall. Those who purchased the debut record (and Fantasy’s subsequent 12-inch release) were expected to be aware of the true identity of the paunchy alto player on the cover, smirking and holding a white plastic instrument in his huge hands as if it were a toy. On the album’s credits he was listed as “Charlie Chan” in order to avoid a lawsuit from Mercury, to whom Bird was legally contracted at the time of the concert. Mingus, who prepared the album, was dissatisfied with the way his bass had been recorded, so he overdubbed a new bass line that went on the released sides. Unfortunately, the new line overshadowed the sound of the other instruments. This release presents all of the quintet tracks from the Massey Hall concerts (a few trio tracks were also performed) in their concert order and as originally recorded, without the dubbed bass line that Mingus would add later.
Catalogue number: JWR4586