Thursday, June 1, 2017

Jazz at the Philharmonic Volume 1


Producer Norman Granz first presented the long-running series of jazz concerts known as Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1944. He recorded them from the beginning, and in 1948 arranged to have the JATP concert of February 12, 1945 released on the Stinson label. The first release was a set of three 12" 78s, with this 10" LP coming a little later. Moses Asch, the owner of Stinson (and later Folkways) retained the rights to the recordings, so when Granz later arranged with the Mercury label to release the JATP concerts, he started over with a new "Volume 1." This Stinson release is the real "Volume 1," though, even though it isn't labeled as such.

The concept behind Jazz at the Philharmonic was of a public jam session, with a succession of soloists improvising at length. The results varied in quality, and JATP gained a reputation for featuring grandstanding, crowd-pleasing soloists. There were plenty of those over the years, but there were always excellent improvisers on board as well.

This first released concert featured trumpeters Howard McGhee and Joe Guy, Illinois Jacquet and Charlie Ventura on tenor saxes, Garland Finney on piano, guitarist Ulysses Livingston, Red Callender on bass, and drummer Gene Krupa, who is not mentioned in the liner notes, presumably for contractual reasons. To my ears, the best moments are by the trumpeters. Howard McGhee was an excellent soloist throughout his career, and I've always been fascinated by Joe Guy's playing - his note choices were unusual and forward-looking, even if his playing was somewhat disjointed at times. The tenor saxophonists lean to the crowd-pleasing, and in that respect this record set the tone for many JATP albums to come.

In the JATP version of "How High the Moon" from this album, Joe Guy has the first trumpet solo, and Illinois Jacquet plays the first tenor solo.




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