Dizzy Gillespie & Friends – Concert Of The Century – Justin Time Just 259-2, 60:12 ****:
A singular aggregation in top-flight form.
(Dizzy Gillespie – trumpet/ Ray Brown – bass/ Milt Jackson – vibes/ Hank Jones – piano/ James Moody – tenor sax & flute/ Philly Joe Jones – drums)
For a time after World War II until the mid ‘50s, there was a vibrant jazz scene in Montreal Canada. Clubs like the Alberta Lounge, Café St Michel, Chez Parée, Rockheads Paradise, and the Latin Quarter flourished, thus attracting major international jazz players. Additionally Montreal’s fame grew when artists like Oscar Peterson, Paul Bley, Maynard Ferguson and Oliver Jones, each of whom had been born there, gained recognition in the jazz world.
After this terrific period, jazz seemed to lose its way, and Montreal its lustre, due in no small measure to the anti-corruption crackdown that took place in the city which closed the clubs and most other night-life. This phase lasted until Expo 67 launched in the city. But it was not until the mid ‘70s however, when an immigrant from French Guiana named Rouè-Doudou Boicel, opened a jazz club called The Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club, that the city began to experience a renaissance of this music. Capitalizing on the friendships made through the club, Boicel produced this concert in 1980, and now the album which carries the over the top title Concert Of The Century.
The band that Dizzy Gillespie put together for this concert was not a working band, but a collection of friends and former cohorts who were bop oriented players. The idea was that the concert would be a tribute to Charlie Parker. The set selection was driven more by compositions that would be readily adaptable to head arrangements from which each one of the players could riff and solo. They were not bop tunes that were closely identifiable with Parker, and would require intricate arrangement to make them work.
Irvin Block, in writing for the Montreal-based The Senior Times in February 2011, described the concert this way: “There was no rehearsal and they (the band) did not know what they were going to play….I was close enough to the stage to hear Brown on a couple of numbers calling out the chord changes to James Moody”. Be that as it may, the band opens the disc with Dizzy’s own composition “Blue ’n’ Boogie” which gave each member a chance to strut their stuff, which they did with abandon on this up-tempo swinger.
Most of the other tracks are feature items for the various band members. Milt Jackson does a lovely lyrical take on “If I Should Lose You”, James Moody is in top flight form on flute with “Darben The Redd Foxx” and Dizzy is aglow with insight on muted trumpet for “Time On My Hands”. On each and every number the rhythm section of pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Philly Joe Jones are more than up to the task of pushing the band along or elegantly restrained as required.
While this is not the Concert Of The Century, it could be considered historic as this was the only time that this aggregation would play together. Clearly is was worth the price of admission.
TrackList: Blue ’n’ Boogie; If I Should Lose You; Darben The Redd Foxx; Time On My Hands; Get Happy; The Shadow Of Your Smile; Bass Solo/Manhã De Carnaval/Work Song; Stardust