Sunday, December 29, 2013
Charlie Parker The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever Prestige 1973
2 years away from his death in 1955, Charlie Parker was invited to play in Toronto, Canada, with 4 other giants of Bebop. Apparently, some well to do's in Canada decided they wanted an event, brainstormed and decided they'd invite the biggest innovators in bebop to come perform. By this time, bebop wasn't the radical confusing scene Parker had started. It was generally accepted as jazz (not "China Music" like Louis Armstrong once dubbed it), the innovations provided by Parker and Gillespie were now commonplace.
Surprisingly, they showed up to play. Legends say Bud Powell was drunk from the onset, Gillespie was busy leaving the stage to check on a boxing match, and Parker was playing on a cheap alto sax with plastic parts. It represents the last time Gillespie and Parker would collaborate on an album and finds Parker in good form despite being only two years away from heroin ending his life (he didn't die of an overdose, he died because he was an addict) and playing a cheap sax. This has been released many times and under different names. The first being Mingus' own Debut label entitled Jazz At Massey Hall. This Prestige edition differs in that it contains the trio of just Mingus, Powell, & Roach (supposedly from a different night and also rumored to also have Art Tatum behind the keys rather than Powell). But, those dudes aren't KC so don't have to spend much time arguing that.
The thing that this LP really showcases is the influence Parker had. Kansas City, KS born, Kansas City, MO raised, the guy reinvented jazz. There's pre-Bop and post-Bop, and Charlie Parker is Bebop. The quintet he is a part of is his and legendary; he's the ringleader. He's the one that showed them the way. Even Gillespie, who was far more advanced in theory than anyone, wouldn't have found his true calling had he never heard Parker explode on a saxophone. Throughout the album, Parker and Gillespie are stride for stride and he explodes on "Salt Peanuts" and "Wee". He also finds his moments on the ballad "All The Things You Are."
And, I worried about this LP. I mean, after all, it was two years before his death, could he be all that good at this point? Of course, it's easy to forget, Parker died at age 36, he was 34 at the time of the recording and still cutting some of his best sides.