Various: Hot House – The Complete Jazz At Massey Hall Recordings

Reissue of the fabled Parker, Gillespie, Powell, Roach and Mingus set has the LP issue plus the original tapes before Mingus redid some parts


So much has been written about this famous 1953 recording from Toronto’s Massey Hall that one might wonder, is there anything left to say?

Well, yes there is, according to sleeve-note contributors Davis Scharf and Don Brown. Printed on the backside of a poster-sized fold-out mix of three black and white photographs from the concert, their comments address questions such as why the concert hall was only one third full, how did Bud Powell and not Lennie Tristano get the piano chair, and, was Charles Mingus, perhaps most of all an Ellington man, the best bassist for such a bop affair?

The music comes on two CDs. The second disc has the concert as presented on the original Debut Records LP issue and, we’re told, “made from the tapes onto which Mingus (who felt he had been poorly recorded in the concert) overdubbed new bass parts in ensemble passages and solo exchanges in All The Things You Are”. The first disc comes from the original mono tape, before the aforementioned additions from Mingus.

Whichever disc you choose to focus on, the music – as sexy as it is intellectual and spiritual – remains extraordinary in its interlaced, now edgy, now liquid melodic, harmonic and rhythmic vivacity. But CD1 has the signal advantage of nigh-on half an hour of further material from the second half of the concert, including some especially memorable passages from Roach (the solo Drum Conversation), Powell and Mingus (Embraceable You and Cherokee, with Roach’s work with brushes outstanding on the latter).

Many years ago, I would listen endlessly to blues pearls of Parker such as Parker’s Mood (alluded to here, at the commencement and conclusion of All The Things You Are) and Now’s The Time, as well as to extended Gillespie achievements like Gillespiana and Perceptions, the latter the J. J. Johnson suite conduced by Gunther Schuller. Time passed and my jazz ear got into other things.

Then, early in the new millenium, with its superb sound, the fabulous issue on Uptown of Dizzy Gillespie / Charlie Parker: Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 opened my bop ear once more. And now, nearly two decades on, this terrific twofer confirms the fact that many will have grasped on a deeper level than I ever did: you just can’t beat bebop at its original, challenging and effervescent best!

CD1: (1) Perdido; Salt Peanuts; All The Things You Are / 52nd Street Theme; Wee (Allen’s Alley); Hot House; A Night In Tunisia; (2) Drum Conversation; (3) I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Embraceable You; Sure Thing; Cherokee; Hallelujah; Lullaby Of Birdland (73.12 )
CD2: (4) Perdido; Salt Peanuts; All The Things You Are / 52nd Street Theme; Wee (Allen’s Alley); Hot House; A Night In Tunisia (46.36)

(1) Parker (as, v); Gillespie (t, v); Powell (p); Mingus (b); Roach (d). (2) Roach solo. (3) as (1) but Parker and Gillespie out. (4) Parker (as, v); Gillespie (t, v); Powell (p); Mingus (b); Roach (d). Toronto, 15 May 1953.
Craft LC 15025