Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945
In a bit of hype worthy of Symphony Sid Torin-or People magazine-the New York Times lauded this long-lost recording as "the Rosetta Stone of bebop." It's not.
It is a helluva find, though. Joining Diz and Bird are Max Roach on drums, Al Haig on piano and Curley Russell on bass. A fish-out-of-water Sid Catlett sits in for Roach on a couple of tracks, and the underrated tenor saxophonist Don Byas replaces a late-arriving Bird on the opening "Bebop."
This is basically the same band that, a month earlier, recorded four tracks that helped define the bop movement. Here they recap some of that same material in concert. While the music here isn't wildly different from the well-known recordings, it is, for the most part, terrific. The stylistic evolutionist in me is most intrigued by Bird's break on "A Night in Tunisia." Similar to his 1946 Dial studio version, it has a straighter 16th feel, lacking the rhythmic hiccup that made the ultimate take so mind-blowing.
The performance is staid in places, but when it burns, as on "Salt Peanuts," watch out. This has to be the record of the year-unless someone uncovers those mythical Buddy Bolden cylinders. Now, that would be something to hype!