The only thing that keeps Classic Savoy Be-Bop Sessions from being Complete Savoy Be-Bop Sessions is that it excludes Charlie Parker’s recordings for the label. That, however, is good news. For one thing, it means that Mosaic’s latest isn’t yet another repackaging of music that every semi-serious jazz fan has anyway. Instead, it’s 10 CDs of bebop in its ascendant era, featuring more than 20 headliners and demonstrating that even without Bird, Savoy Records was the most innovative label of the day.
Of course much of this music has also been widely packaged and repackaged, and early dates by Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson are no strangers to the canon. But Mosaic’s curations are so much more than content; they are context. Putting Gordon, Getz and Johnson together, along with Fats Navarro, Howard McGhee, Allen Eager, Tadd Dameron and the great but neglected Leo Parker creates a panoramic view of what the first wave of bebop actually sounded like. And what it sounded like was a sonic rainbow. We understand intellectually that each individual brings his own flavor to the music, but it really takes hearing them en masse for that idea to sink in.