06 JUN 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI
If you, like me, grew up on the vinyl version of The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall, you'll appreciate even more the electricity and drama of the brilliant re-release, part of the OJC Remaster Series.
It's almost hard to believe when you read such storied names, but Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach and bassist Charles Mingus really did come together for one magical night of music sponsored by the New Jazz Society of Toronto, in 1953. (My first double-vinyl copy carried Prestige Records' unassuming alternate title, The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever.) Thankfully, it was recorded by Mingus, who wasn't even the Society's first choice but appeared because Oscar Pettiford didn't.
Parker and Gillespie blow fire at each other, not always good-naturedly, through all three tunes in their second set. Parker showed up without a horn, and had to borrow a plastic alto. His solos in "Hot House" and "A Night in Tunisia" receive rapturous and deserved ovations, and in "Wee (Allen's Alley)," he nearly melts it. It's some of the best playing Parker had left. Gillespie responds with incandescent fireworks and razor-sharp rhythms to light up and slice up "Tunisia."
While much of the attention focuses on the fires in the frontline, the rhythm section sounds no less accomplished. Listen, for example, how they take "All the Things You Are" by the hand and skip into Monk's "52nd Street Theme." You can hear their intermission trio set on Jazz At Massey Hall Vol. 2 (OJC, 1991).