The 1940s and 1950s were golden decades for live concert recordings. Radio stations captured many live dates cleanly on transcription discs meant to be played later in different time zones. These eventually surfaced on LPs and CDs as interest in artists and jazz grew. In the LP era, concerts were routinely taped by record companies and then commercially issued on albums. Starting with the release of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert in 1950, there often was a special urgency and excitement built into live LP recordings, giving listeners a front-row seat at home.While producers Norman Granz and Gene Norman certainly staged the lion's share of concerts on the East and West coasts in the late 1940s and 1950s, there were many lesser-known productions that resulted in superb live recordings. Here are five live concert dates that may be unfamiliar to you but remain worthy:
Sam Donahue—Live in Stereo at Jantzen Beach (Jazz Hour). Recorded in Portland, Ore., on September 14, 1957, the arrangements are solid all the way through. The album will encourage you to reconsider this forgotten bandleader. It's available at iTunes and here.
East Coast Jazz Scene (Coral). Produced by disc jockey Al "Jazzbo" Collins, this concert was held on November 8, 1955 at New York's Pythian Temple. It featured spotlight performances by the Larry Sonn Orchestra, Gene Quill, Don Elliot, Tony Fruscella and Coleman Hawkins. It's available on Fairy Tales For Hip Kids here.
Birdland Stars on Tour (Collectibles). This all-star touring ensemble was recorded in 1956. The band: Conte Candoli and Kenny Dorham (trumpets); Phil Woods (alto sax); Al Cohn (tenor sax); Hank Jones (piano); John Simmons (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). This is available on CD here.
Les Brown—Concert at the Palladium (Jasmine). This September 1953 classic featured Don Fagerquist on trumpet and Dave Pell on tenor sax, with arrangements by Wes Hensel, Frank Comstock, Skip Martin and Van Alexander. This is available at iTunes and here.
Battle Royal: Charlie Barnet v. Woody Herman (Sounds of Yesteryear). On July 30, 1949, Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman squared off at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, CA. When I interviewed arranger Bill Holman in 2008, he mentioned this showdown and said the following:
"I heard the broadcast live in Salt Lake City, where I was at the time with Ike Carpenter's band. Barnet won it, hands down. Charlie's band sparkled, while Woody's just got through another day."
Here are lineups of the two different bands at the height of their hip powers:
Charlie Barnet: Rolf Ericson, Doc Severinsen (tp) Ray Wetzel (tp,vcl) Maynard Ferguson, John Howell (tp) O.B. Massingill, Dick Kenney, Kent Larson (tb) Ken Martlock (b-tb) Charlie Barnet (sax,ldr) Vinnie Dean, Ruben Leon (as) Dick Hafer, Kurt Bloom (ts) Manny Albam (bar,arr) Claude Williamson (p) Eddie Safranski (b) Tiny Kahn (d).
Woody Herman: Ernie Royal, Al Porcino, Charlie Walp, Stan Fishelson, Shorty Rogers (tp) Earl Swope, Bill Harris, Ollie Wilson, Bart Varsalona (tb) Woody Herman (cl,as,vcl) Sam Marowitz (as) Gene Ammons, Buddy Savitt, Jimmy Giuffre (ts) Serge Chaloff (bar) Terry Gibbs (vib) Lou Levy (p) Joe Mondragon (b) Shelly Manne (d)
This recording is available on CD here.
A JazzWax thanks to David Langner and Kurt Kolstad.