A CD whose most obvious selling point is its very existence,
Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 gives us Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie fresh from the 3 Deuces and full of vim at the dawn of bebop, almost a decade before Massey Hall. No one even suspected this 40-minute set had been recorded until the professional-quality, unlabeled acetates circuitously found their way to Uptown’s Bob Sunenblick. Despite needle hiss, the sound is vivid—Max Roach’s bass drum rips through your woofer. (Bassist Curley Russell, alas, is as much
a rumor as he was on contemporaneous studio recordings.) Symphony Sid’s jive-ass announcements create a you-are-there aura, Al Haig’s piano solos are little lyrical adventures, and though sitters-in Don Byas and Sid Catlett are out of their idiom, they’re not enough to deter Parker and Gillespie from their artful games of double dare. Dizzy spends most of his choruses in the stratosphere; Parker spends his racing around bar lines as if they weren’t there. The average length of the tunes is
about seven minutes, roughly double that of the era’s commercially issued sides, and you know you’re in for a ride when the slowest tempo is “Groovin’ High.” With Coltrane at the Half Note in ’65 and Monk at Carnegie Hall in ’57 coming in the next few months, to say nothing of Miles at the Cellar Door in ’70 and Sonny Rollins in Boston soon after 9-11, this is shaping up as a
year of archaeological finds. But nothing figures to top this.