This 9 disc set from Mosaic Records contains some of the most explosive music that ever hit American ears. Right after WWII, West Coast resident Ross Russell heard about the latest style of popular sounds that was replacing swing, something called “bebop.” He finally got a chance to hear guys like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie bring in the latest jazz import, and with LA locals like Howard McGhee and Dexter Gordon joining the bandwagon, Russell formed Dial Records to capture the nascent sounds of a musical genre that threw jazz into the modern era, something from which we still feel the rippled effects .
All of this material has been out on lp, but the problem with albums, (and I’m one who bought them all that way back in the day) is that these sessions had MULTIPLE takes, sometimes complete, sometimes not. The famed “Alto Break” that Parker took on “A Night In Tunisia” became a star all its own, as did the agonizing “Lover Man” and the even more agonizing “The Gypsy” and “Bebop” which find a drugged Parker barely staying on the chair while delivering some harrowing solos. But that’s just a side track of the value of this set.
What you get here is some of the most celebratory and revolutionary music America has ever experienced. In 1945, we have Diz, Bird, Teddy Wilson and Slam Stewart melding swing to bop in tunes like “Hallelujah,” “Get Happy” and “Congo Blues.” Then, make a few shifts in personnel (which happens a LOT here)and Diz is with tenor saxist Lucky Thompson and Milt Jackson on “Diggin for Diz” and “Confirmation.” The music may sound a bit tame now, but back then it was like a caged lion let loose. Miles Davis, Thompson and Bird team up for absolutely classic tunes such as “Moose the Mooch,” “Ornithology,” “Yardbird Suite” and of course “Night in Tunisia.” If you play the horn, these things have been part of your Fake Book or Transcription Lessons since Day One. The Mount Rushmore of Modern Music.
And we’ve only started. Howard McGhee leads a snappy little band with Teddy Edwards/ts and Dodo Marmarosa/p for material like “Midnight at Mintons” and “High Wind in Hollywood,” and pianist Errol Garner calls up Bird for a glorious delight with a series on “Home Cooking” and “Lullaby in Rhythm.” Even better is when Bird lets loose on “Cool Blues” and “Bird’s Nest.” Garner also does some solo work with flowing material such as “A Fantasy on Frankie and Johnny” and “Don’t Worry About Me.” This is what dreams were made of.
Post Parker’s time in the mental hospital, he brings together Howard McGhee and the cool toned tenor Wardell Gray for glorious material such as “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and “Carvin’ the Bird.” After that, Bird forms a working band with Miles Davis, Tommy Potter/b, Duke Jordan/p, Max Roach/dr and sometimes JJ Johnson/tb for classic small group work on “Bird of Paradise,” “Embraceable You” and “My Old Flame” which features Parker’s underappreciated lyrical side on ballads. Davis is the perfect foil and contrast for Parker, something that influenced the young trumpeter when he picked his own sidemen later on in his career that did fairly well.
A few more small groups with Dexter Gordon blowing hard and strong with Teddy Edwards in “The Duel” and “Blues in Teddy’s Flat” is vintage Central Avenue jazz, and a ’47 battle royal with Gray on “The Chase” was a big hit back in the day, while Fats Navarro sizzles on his own “Yardbird Suite.” A get together with James Moody, Howard McGhee, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown and JC Heard burn up NYC on “Night Mist” and “Turnip Blue,” and Dodo Marmarosa’s trio bops like Bud Powell on “Bopmatism” and “Dodo’s Dance.” The collection here of Parker when he was throwing down the musical gauntlet here cannot be underappreciated. The rest of the material is just icing on the be-bopping cake. A Hollywood Walk of Fame here of jazz artists when Adam could walk with God in the Garden of Eden.