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Download Central: The greatest jazz concert ever

I can’t get enough of the album Jazz at Massey Hall. The 1953 concert also acquired a mythical dimension because of its back story.

music Updated: Nov 07, 2015 16:39 IST
Sanjoy Narayan
The Jazz at Massey Hall album cover.
The Jazz at Massey Hall album cover.

There are times when I dig out and play the old copy of an album that has never left my collection of music. It’s Jazz at Massey Hall by the Charlie Parker Quintet. It’s an album that I have as a CD as well as in lossless digital files and if I get one in vinyl format I shall buy it. The concert took place in Toronto’s Massey Hall on May 15, 1953.

The band was what we can (blasphemously) borrow from rock’s lexicon to describe as a ‘supergroup’: Parker on saxophone; Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet; Charles Mingus on bass; Bud Powell on piano; and Max Roach on drums. These five were unarguably the stars of that era’s bebop, each one on top of his game, and the concert was the first and only one that they recorded together. For Bird (Parker) and Diz (Gillespie), this was the last time they would record together because Parker died a couple of years later.

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