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Dizzy Gillespie & Friends: Concert of the Century

A Tribute to Charlie Parker

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A sextet of jazz royalty gathered onstage in Montreal on Nov. 24, 1980, to pay tribute to Charlie Parker. The evening was recorded superbly.

One might think that such an occasion would result in a landmark jazz record. This was not the case. A limited-edition LP was printed, and then the tapes went into storage. Twenty-six years later, Concert of the Century gets its due, with a CD and a double vinyl album.

The band—trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, tenor saxophonist James Moody, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Philly Joe Jones—is crazy good, and the fidelity is delicious. Everyone is miked well, especially Jones, whose bomb-dropping is captured in full brilliance. The concert may have been staged more than three decades after bebop’s heyday—and some of these guys were there at the creation—but this is every bit as fresh and alive as Diz ’n Bird at Carnegie Hall.

After a raucous 11-minute romp through “Blue ’n’ Boogie” that plays horns and drums off each other, the band serves up a tasteful rendition of “If I Should Lose You” that brings out Jackson’s best, and then a sprightly take on Moody’s “Darben the Redd Foxx” that features the composer’s staccato attack on flute. Gillespie puts in the mute to lead the band through a pretty “Time on My Hands,” and Jackson’s quick-fire mallets propel the super-speedy “Get Happy.” Moody’s comparatively modern touch—he starts off atonally and blows with harsh edges—sets the tone for an everybody-gets-to-stretch “The Shadow of Your Smile.” After eight minutes of a splendid bass showcase, in which Brown merges “Manha de Carnaval” with “Work Song” almost entirely unaccompanied, the group closes with a bewitching version of “Stardust.” It’s a beautiful ending to a magical evening.

Originally Published