Put up with the sound, it's worth it
Andrew R. Weiss | Raleigh, NC USA | 01/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album first appeared on LP in the mid to late 1950's. It's a recording of a live concert by GIllespie's big band at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium sometime in the late 1940's, probably 1948. The original album cover claims the record received the Grand Prix award from France's Jazz Hot magazine. Is it really that good? Let's just say I purchased this album as a kid back in 1958 and pretty much wore out the grooves.
Dizzy and the band are in fine form, playing standard fare from the band's book with arrangements by Gil Fuller and Tadd Dameron with total joy. The band features Ernie Henry on alto, James Moody on tenor, Cecil Payne on baritone, and the amazing Chano Pozo on congas. Pozo was a phenomenon, and it is worth owning this album for his presence alone. Not only does he bring a different rhythmic sense to the band, he also drives it, working closely with the band's drummer (who sounds suspiciously like Gene Krupa). There are more polished versions of these pieces in Dizzy's studio recordings, but none that have more fire and verve. The audience is enthusiastic and the band responds in kind. Gillespie's band always seemed to me more enthusiastic than polished, but in a live performance of such intensity, the ragged ensembles hardly matter. We have one of those you-had-to-be-there moments recorded for posterity.
The sound is something else. It's adequate at best. When the band plays softly (which it does, at times), the brass sound like they're on another planet (check out "Can't Get Started"). But generally the balance is decent, and there's enough bass to register both the string bass and the bass drum. The CD sounds suspiciously like the old LP (I even wonder whether it was burned from one). But put up with it. Like the Jazz from Massey Hall and the Town Hall concert, this is a moment in BeBop's history captured for posterity. Dizzy Gillespie was, to my ears, the most joyful jazz musician next to Louis Armstrong, and these big band performances always bring a huge smile to my face.
Highly recommended, despite the sound."