Recent listening, current

Friday, February 21, 2014

187. The Complete Jazz at the Philharmonic on Verve, 1944-1949 (1998)

After being evicted, in a word, from Los Angeles' Philharmonic Auditorium in 1946, Norman Granz retained his revue's catchy name and took the show on the road. For the next several years, various incarnations of "Jazz at the Philharmonic" played for audiences across Europe and North America. The historically important concerts were recorded and released, pimples and all. In fact, they represent some of the first commercial "live" albums ever made. Some were broadcasted on big radio stations, and extensive touring allowed audiences in isolated locales to see performers who never would have reached them. A notable feature of the Philharmonic lineups was that they juxtaposed veterans of the swing era with younger players of bebop. Rosters included Slim Gaillard, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Billie Holiday, Gene Krupa, Hank Jones, Ray Brown.... too many to list them all here. These styles were often in stiff opposition, and their players unlikely to play together. Stories abound of the politics wrought by the odd marriage of styles. I've read critics who fault Granz for "forcing" jams and contests between players, but most listeners enjoy the results. I'm with the latter camp, and I rank these records among the most essential of all.

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