The Complete Dial Modern Jazz Sessions – Mosaic Records (9 CDs)

The Complete Dial Modern Jazz Sessions (1945-1947) – Mosaic Records MD9-260 – 9-CD box set  *****:

(Artists include: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Howard McGhee, Sonny Berman, Shorty Rogers, Fats Navarro – trumpets; Bill Harris, Melba Liston, J.J, Johnson – trombones; Flip Phillips, Lucky Thompson, Teddy Edwards, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, James Moody, Don Lanphere- tenor sax; Charlie Parker – alto sax; Serge Chaloff – baritone sax; Red Norvo, Milt Jackson – vibes; Teddy Wilson, George Handy, Al Haig, Dodo Marmarosa; Jimmy Bunn, Ralph Burns, Russ Freeman, Errol Garner, Charles Fox, Duke Jordan, Hank Jones, Jimmy Rowles, Linton Garner – piano; Alvin Garrison, Chuck Wayne, Barney Kessel, Al Casey – guitars; Slam Stewart, Ray Brown, Vic McMillan, Bob Kesterson, Artie Bernstein, Arnold Fishkind, Red Callender, Tommy Potter, Jimmy Johnson – bass; Harry Babasin – cello; Specs Powell, J. C Heard, Stan Levey, Roy Porter, Don Lamond, Jimmy Pratt; Harold “Doc” West; Chuck Thompson, Max Roach, Jackie Mills – drums; Earl Coleman – vocals)

The period after World War II brought monumental changes to the American jazz scene. The major labels – RCA Victor, Columbia, and Decca – were met with imposed royalty increases, shellac shortages, and price fixes imposed by government agencies. This led to a period when the big three label triumvirate literally stopped recording. This led to the positive development of independent labels stepping in on both the East and West coasts to reinvigorate the exploration of new jazz idioms. They could operate on a shoe-string budget, both recording, manufacturing and selling their own product at low end margins. These small labels were run by knowledgeable jazz fan(atics), who were excited to record the new wave of vibrant fresh music coming onto the scene.

Bop, the new craze originated in New York City,  soon spread to the West Coast when its founders – Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis (among others) obtained engagements in Los Angeles joining Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, and Teddy Edwards. They were exploring new, wild, and sometimes frantic jazz, just what an energized public craved after coming out of the war years, excited and motivated by what the future promised.

Dial Records from the West Coast, was founded by Ross Russell, who owned the Tempo Music shop in 1944. Russell launched Dial when the musicians’ union lifted its ban on recording after the war. His initial recording was made in New York in June, 1945, by an all-star sextet led by Red Norvo with Dizzy, Bird, and Flip Phillips. The Tempo Jazzmen featuring Dizzy, Lucky Thompson, and Milt Jackson followed early the next year, recording in LA.

However, the rocket ship really blasted off into space a month later when Dial recorded the Charlie Parker Septet at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. Bird had signed an exclusive one year contract with Russell. The dye was cast for Parker with timeless bop classics such as “Moose the Mooche,” “Yardbird Suite,” “Ornithology,” and “Night in Tunisia.” Within months, however, Parker began a down hill slide with drugs and emotional issues that led to his commitment at the California State Mental Hospital in Cammarillo. After his six month stay in the hospital, Parker regained his footing and began one of his most productive periods in 1947. Dial recorded prime bop sessions with Bird in Hollywood and New York, and even home recordings documenting his greatness.

It was not just Charlie Parker that makes Dial’s Modern Jazz Sessions so iconic. Russell covered all the bases of the creative mid-1940s. A brief glance at their massive talent roster above confirms that Dial, and Ross Russell had the pulse of modern jazz covered. From the Shorty Rogers-arranged Woody Herman sidemen recording as the Sonny Berman (this dynamic trumpeter died much too young)/ Bill Harris/Ralph Burns aggregation. Other sessions were recorded by the Howard McGhee/Dodo Marmarosa Sextet, an Errol Garner 1947 solo session, and the “duels” between Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray that were incendiary. Dial Records helped make bop history.

Ross Russell’s eye for talent was uncanny as just a glance of the longevity of the musicians here is monumental. (Not including Miles, Dizzy, and Lucky Thompson), just check out a brief listing: Ray Brown, Howard McGhee, Barney Kessel, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones,Duke Jordan, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, and J. J. Johnson.  Definitely the cream of jazz royalty, these musicians all became legendary.

This newest Mosaic Records set was previously only issued once in Japan twenty years ago. Now that it is available in a limited 5000 set issue, it belongs in every serious jazz collector’s home. What makes this collection even more historical in its value is its impeccable acoustics. Keeping in mind it presents music recorded nearly 70 (!) years ago, its pristine remastering by Steve Marlowe and Jonathan Horwich, utilizing Bit Density processing, leaves all the music in, meticulously removing only the surface noise, pops, hisses, etc. found in 78 rpm recordings as well as on 10” LPs. There is no noise reduction used and no use of “EQuing.”

This is music to treasure, and the 32 page Mosaic booklet documents the three year time period with archival photography adding to its value. Do not get shut out from its purchase due to its limited release. Bird and the boppers presented here have never sounded so good….

Album highlights:

CD 1: Red Norvo & His Selected Sextet; Errol Garner solo piano (1947)
CD 2: Dizzy Gillespie Jazzmen; Tempo Jazzmen; Charlie Parker Septet
CD 3: Charlie Parker Quintet/ Howard McGhee Quintet/Quartet; Sonny Berman’s Big Eight; Bill Harris Big Eight; Ralph Burns Quintet
CD 4: Charlie Parker Home Cooking Session – Charlie Parker Quartet/ Errol Garner Trio
CD 5: Charlie Parker All-Stars; Dexter Gordon Quintet (w/ Melba Liston)
CD 6: Dexter Gordon-Wardell Gray Quintet; Dexter Gordon Quartet
CD 7: Charlie Parker Quintet; Howard McGhee Sextet (w/James Moody, Milt Jackson & Hank Jones)
CD 8: Dodo Marmarosa Trio; Dexter Gordon/ Teddy Edwards
CD 9: Charlie Parker Sextet (w/Miles Davis and J.J. Johnson); Earl Coleman & Fats Navarro

—Jeff Krow

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