Not too long ago, record labels had certain identities. Blue Note was best known for hard bop, Columbia for big named mainstream, etc. After WWII, Be-bop was in the air, and a tiny label named Savoy was one of labels who shouted the new modern sounds from the mountain tops. The exciting and forward looking music was palpable, as the Mount Rushmore artists Dizzy Gillesie Charlie Parker and Lester Young brought inspired a whole new generation of artists. This 10 cd set, due to date restrictions and repetition, avoids the Parker/Young sessions from the label, and brings to surface material that has been obscured over time that deserves to be given a new opportunity to be heard and appreciated.
During this era, the shadows of certain artists were cast long. Thus, most tenor sax players give allegiance to either the gruff toned and rhapsodic Coleman Hawkins, or the smooth and airy Lester Young. Some artists combined the two, while on trumpet just about everyone was bitten by the Dizzy Gillespie bug, and every alto player aspired to be an ornithologist.
Many of the artists who lead these sessions went on to become household names in the modern era of jazz. Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, JJ Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Kai Winding and Kenny Dorham are bright lights in the big city of hard bop and beyond, as they later did iconic sessions for Verve and Blue Note. Other artists became more obscure over the years, yet undeservedly so, as Allen Eager, Brew Moore, Serge Chaloff, Leo Parker, Howard McGhee and Kenny Clarke are returned to the spotlight to be given a second hurrah for their contribution to modern jazz. Unfortunately, time and God’s sovereignty make some artists more popular and long lasting than others. Fortunately, we are still able to appreciate their short moments in glory on these albums.
Concerning the “first tier” artists first, you’ve got Long Tall Dexter Gordon with his big sound along with boppers including Bud Powell/p, Max Roach/dr and Curly Russell/b for some toe tapping pieces like “Dexter Digs In” and “Dexter Rides Again” in 1946. A year later he’s with Leo Parker/bs, Tadd Dameron/p and Art Blakey/dr for “Settin’ The Pace” and “Dexter’s Riff” while a session a bit later with Fats Navarro/tp gives a thrilling “Dextrose” and “Dextivity.” Dizzy Gillespie is teamed up with bassist Ray Brown’s All stars and along with James Moody, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones and a handful of others, do delightful things with “Boppin’ the Blues” and “Smoky Hollow Jump.”
Trombone icon Jay Jay Johnson teams up with Cecil Payne/as, Bud Powell/p, Leonard Gaskin/b and Max Roach/dr for insightful and fun material like “Jay Bird” and “Jay Jay” and in 1947 teams up with Leo Parker/bs, Hank Jones/p, Al Lucas/b and Shadow Wilson/dr for a riveting “Yesterdays.”
Stan Getz is captured in 1946 with Jones, Russell and Roach for a fun “Opus De Bop” and joyful “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” A classic encounter between proto-boppers Sonny Stitt/as and Kenny Dorham/tp with Powell, Al Hall/b and Wallace Bishop/dr in 1946 produces the timeless “Bebop In Paste” and “Ray’s Idea” and Fats Navarro joins in with the horn players for the modern and eternally joyful “Boppin’ A Riff” and “Fat Boy.” Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis teams up with with some boppers for a searing “Fracture” and “Hollerin’ and Screamin’.”
Sonny Stitt was cursed (blessed?) with sounding exactly like Charlie Parker, and his session with Kenny Dorham, Bud Powell, Al Hall and Wallace Bishop do little to dispel that claim, with some vintage 52nd Street sounds on “Bebop in Pastels” and “Ray’s Idea.”
Fats Navarro was once the poster boy of Be-bop after Dizzy Gillespie, and he’s in many of the important sessions here, including the one with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis on “”Just a Mystery,” Calling Dr. Jazz” and “Spinal.” Likewise, trombonist Kai Winding sounds revelatory with Getz, future West Coast Cooler Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne/dr and others on rich and thoughtful pieces “Sweet Miss” and “Loaded.” Likewise, legendary bassist Ray Brown brings in a team including Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown and arranger Gil Fuller for some sophisticated charts on “Boppin’ The Blues” and “Smoky Hollow Jump.”
Now, for the lesser-known artists, all you can ask yourself is “why didn’t they get better known?” as the charts here are just as exciting and optimistic as the others. First up is Lester Young-inspired Allen Eager, who blow away the blues on “Symphony Sid’s Idea” and “Rampage” with a quartet including Max Roach. He does another session with Roach, Russell, Terry Gibbs/vib and Duke Jordan/p that is a thrill ride on “All Night, All Frantic,” and bit later swings hard with Doug Mettome/tp, George Wallington/p and others on “Janes Bounce” and “Nightmare Allen.” This guy is fantastic!!! Warm toned tenor saxist Brew Moore is on the same level,oozing delight on “Brew Blue.”
Vocalist Kenny Hagood gets his moment in the sunshine as he sings with John Lewis’ Orchestra with Payne, Lewis, Clark and others on a hip “The Way You Look Tonight.” In the same vein, baritone saxist Serge Chaloff, once one of Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers” becomes the voice of the bebop bari with Red Rodney/p on “Serge’s Urge.” Another bari player of the genre was Leo Parker, who before drifting into obscurity recorded some hot sessions with Gordon, Johnson, Russell, Wilson, Jones and Joe Newman/tp on a smoking “Wee Dot” and “The Lion’s Roar.”
At one time trumpeter Howard McGhee was a major challenger to Gillespie’s thrown, demonstrated here with a 1947 session along with Jackson, Percy & Jimmy Heath and Joe Harris/dr for some clever charts “Bass C Jam” and ”Fiesta.” Other remaining obscurities include Terry Reig’s All Stars with Eager, Winding, Manne and Eddie Safranski/b , and another session lead by another Prez disciple in tenor saxist Brew Moore, who teams up with a hep collection of Winding, Russell, Wallington/ Roy Haynes/dr, Jerry Lloyd/tp and Gerry Mulligan/bs for a stylish “Lestorian Mode” and “Gold Rush.”
The major take-aways from absorbing all of this music is most of all how excited everyone sounds, as everyone feels that they are on to something important. The “Rhythm” changes and “borrowing” of famous melodies is well mixed with brand new ideas that shoot up into space like a Nike missile, some hitting the moon, and others crashing in the atmosphere, but that is the beauty and thrill of any “new” thing that comes around.
The fact remains that the music from this era, and these sessions, remains the foundation of everything that we are presently listening to, and it’s most noticeable when some Millennial tries to return to bebop sounds on a current recording. In the hands of a 3rd generation, it comes off as more clinical; here, the sounds are from the people that initially saw the light.
The sound restoration by Steve Marlowe and Jonathan Horwich is revelatory, and the booklet which includes Bob Porter’s incisive essay and vintage Francis Wolff pictures keep the sounds in proper perspective, and the story of producer Terry Reid and his association with the Savoy label provides for interesting background information As with all Mosaic products, it is a limited edition, so get one of the 5,000 quickly, as it’s a history, sonic and musical journey worth taking.