Jazz at Massey Hall: Eyewitness - JazzWax

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January 28, 2009


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Denis Ouellet

For me this concert holds a very special place.
After 1953 I am not aware of any concerts or recording sessions
with Diz and Bird. I think only one air check from Birdland in June 1953 survives. So one month after that concert.

Thanks for all of this information.


Agustín Pérez

Unlike other Charlie Parker Discographies, Peter Losin's Miles Ahead Charlie Parker Database [see http://www.plosin.com/milesAhead/BirdSessions.aspx?s=530523b] places that Birdland aircheck on May 23, this is, just eight days after the Massey Hall concert.

Thanks to Marc (as the editor of the blog) and Don for the wonderful fist hand remembrance of the Massey Hall gig.

Best regards,

Mike Milner

This was a historic event in Canadian music history. The recording, although certainly not pristine, is not bad for the time period. If anyone is interested in learning more about the gig I would recommend Geoffrey Haydon's book "Quintet Of The Year".


A couple of weird things about this. The "Complete" Jazz Factory edition contains 14 tracks. My Prestige LP has 16. The notes on the Prestige jacket say "this is exactly what took place in concert at Massey Hall"; the bass doesn't sound overdubbed either. Mingus isn't having any problems with "Wee"; he doesn't play the melody and it's only "rhythm changes." Of course if the bass part really is an overdub, then it's possible that Mingus screwed up on the original; also the first eight bars of this track are missing. The Prestige issue is described as a reissue of the Fantasy edition, which is described as a reissue of the original Debut edition put out by Mingus himself. There are also an OJC edition and, I think, several others. I wonder if anyone knows the true story about these alleged overdubs and which editions they appear on?

Henry Wasserman

Undoubtably to me the greatest jazz concert ever. The lines, the playfulness, the fire the genius. Powell is on fire. Roach is impeccable. Bird is Mr. Lyrical on grease lightening and Diz is outrageous.

Alan Scharf

Actually the Toronto Big Band performance during the last act WAS recorded. I have a copy here. However the quality is very poor and not commercially acceptable.

-- Alan Scharf

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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