The Birth Of Bop – Craft Recordings

by | Mar 29, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Craft Recordings releases a re-mastered 10” vinyl box set of quintessential Savoy Records bebop music.

The Birth Of Bop – Savoy Records (1952-1953)/ Craft Recordings/Concord Music CR00590 [3/31/2023] – 5 10” LP boxed set + 26 page booklet ****1/2:

(Featuring the music of Charlie Parker; Dexter Gordon; J.J. Johnson; Milt Jackson; Leo Parker; Stan Getz Fats Navarro; Allen Eager; Kai Winding; Don Byas; Budd Johnson; Eddie “Lockjaw Davis; Roy Porter; Serge Chaloff; Morris Lane)

Craft Recordings has released a restored and re-mastered 5-LP boxed set (The Birth Of Bop). Thirty concise tracks recorded between 1944-1949 showcase the talent and passion of the stellar musicians at Savoy Records. The five discs are on 10” vinyl. Volume 1 opens with a relatively tame Charlie Parker performance (“Romance Without Finance”) as a sideman featuring vocals and guitar by Tiny Grimes. The highlight is Parker’s swing-infused solo on alto. Dexter Gordon and his muscular tenor sax take the lead on “Dexter’s Minor Mad”. This jam intermingles swing dynamics with some freewheeling bop phrasing. Most of these tracks are around three minutes long, but have serious jazz pedigree. Slide trombonist J.J. Johnson shines in a quintet on “Jay Bird”.  This ensemble also features Max Roach on drums and the inimitable Bud Powell who provides a scintillating piano run. There is a plethora of memorable cuts, including the blues-infused “Hearing Bells”, led by the dulcet vibraphone of Milt Jackson. The blues vibe continues on “Chase ’N’ Lion” with Leo Parker on baritone sax. In a tenor saxophone summit (including Al Cohn and Zoot Sims), “Stan’s Mood” features an early recording of Stan Getz who is mesmerizing. 

Album Cover for Birth of Bop PackageVolume 2 kicks off with a swinging arrangement of “Hollerin’ and Screaming” with trumpeter Fats Navarro and saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis trading leads and solos. Like many of the arrangements, there is a connection to big band feel. Another tenor player (Allen Eager) exudes classic swing on “Church Mouse”. He is backed by an all-star band, including pianist George Welllington. Trombonist Kai Winding, Getz and Shorty Allen team up on an up tempo cover of Irving Berlin’s standard, “Always”. Returning to blues, Don Byas and Benny Harris add some lively tempo to “Byas A Drink”. Distilling bop freneticism, J.J. Johnson, Cecil Payne, Bud Powell and Max Roach deliver a high energy statement on “Jay Jay”. A stalwart of the bop movement, Dexter Gordon is electrifying on “Long Tall Dexter”. One of the more “veteran” performers Budd Johnson is explosive on the tightly structured “Little Benny”. J.J. Johnson lets it rip on “Mad Be Bop” chronicling the evolution of this “double-time” genre. Milt Jackson explores Latin-infused medium-tempo grooves on “Bubu”. His vibraphone solos are among the most lyrical in bop annals. In a change of pace, Leo Parker’s version of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” is moody and graceful and includes Gordon, Johnson and Hank Jones. A 19 year-old Stan Getz debuts as a band leader on “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me”, sharing the spotlight with Hank Jones.

Terry Gibbs, Max Roach and Duke Jordan back up Allen Eager on “Donald Jay”. Another interesting aspect of these Savoy recordings is that many of the players are in their early 20’s, but they are very accomplished. There is melodic nuance on “Kai Winding’s “Saxon”. Marty Napoleon contributes a spirited piano run. Budd Johnson infuses “Dee Dee’s Dance” with swing energy. The triumvirate of J.J. Johnson, Cecil Payne and Bud Powell glide smoothly through “Coppin’ The Bop” with moderate syncopation. The unison large ensemble approach with great solos invigorate Milt Jackson’s “Junior”. Dexter Gordon and Leonard Hawkins (trumpet) are nothing short of incendiary on “Dexter Digs In”. The final disc (Volume 5) mixes furious bop (“Unmeditated”), blues (“The Lion Roars”) and wailing big band dynamics (“Stealin’ Trash”). The final side offers  recordings from lesser-known bop artists like Roy Porter, Serge Chaloff and Morris Lane with equally satisfying results.

Kudos to Craft Recordings (Mason Williams) for reissuing these seminal collections (also available on 2 CDs and digital) from independent jazz label Savoy Records. The re-mastered audio (Joe Tarantino) is crisp and vibrant. Also, the packaging with original various-colored “modern art” record album sheaths and plain brown record sleeves enhance the vintage aesthetics. There are incisive liner notes by Neil Tesser and great black and white photographs. Jazz aficionados and collector’s will appreciate this historic boxed set.  

—Robbie Gerson

The Birth Of Bop

Vol. 1 (mg 9022) Side A: Romance Without Finance (Charlie Parker); Dexter’s Minor Mad (Dexter Gordon); Jay Bird (J.J. Johnson)
Vol. 1 (mg 9022) Side B: Hearing Bells (Milt Jackson); Chase ’N’ Lion ( Leo Parker); Stan’s Mood (Stan Getz)

Vol. 2 (mg 9023) Side A: Hollering’ And Screamin’ (Fats Navarro); Church Mouse (Allen Eager); Always (Kai Winding)
Vol. 2 (mg 9023) Side B: Byas A Drink (Don Byas); Jay Jay (J.J. Johnson); Long Tall Dexter (Dexter Gordon)

Vol. 3 (mg 9024) Side A: Little Benny (Budd Johnson); Mad Be Bop (J.J. Johnson); Bubu (Milt Jackson)
Vol. 3 (mg 9024) Side B: Solitude (Leo Parker); Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me (Stan Getz); Maternity/Lard Pot (Fats Navarro)

Vol. 4 (mg 9025) Side A: Donald Jay (Allen Eager); Saxon (Kai Winding)); Dee Dee’s Dance (Budd Johnson)
Vol 4 (mg 9025) Side B: Coppin’ The Bop (J.J. Johnson); Junior (Milt Jackson); Dexter Digs In (Dexter Gordon)

Vol. 5 (mg 9026) Side A: Unmeditated (Allen Eager); The Lion’s Roar (Leo Parker); Stealin’ Trash (Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis
Vol 5 (mg 9026) Side B: Pete’s Beat (Roy Porter); Pumpernickel (Serge Chaloff); Blowin’ For Kicks (Morris Lane)  

More information through Craft Recordings:

Logo Craft Recordings

Album Cover for Birth of Bop Package



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