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Quintet of the Year by Geoffrey Haydon

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Geoffrey Haydon wasn’t at Toronto’s Massey Hall back in 1953 when Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach gathered for an all-star concert. Like most who have heard recordings of the performance though, he too was profoundly stirred by the extraordinary music produced that night. Yet the concert itself actually plays a relatively minor role in this valuable book’s overall scheme. By surveying the careers of all five musical icons-events leading up to and stretching beyond Massey Hall-Haydon offers a comprehensive, and involving, outline of the evolution and impact of bebop. He also expertly weaves the personal lives of his subjects within the story of their musical growth. (The travails of Parker and Powell make for particularly grim reading.)

The music produced at Massey Hall can certainly stand on its own, but Quintet of the Year broadens our appreciation of the collective genius gathered on the stage a half century ago.