I have been revisiting some classics lately, and today's selection was Jazz at Massey Hall. This is one of the first jazz records I ever bought, how could you go wrong as a neophyte jazz fan with Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Bud Powell? I used to have a disagreement with a friend, claiming that Bud dominated the record, but now I'm coming around to his view that Max really runs the show, maybe because he's been on everybody's mind lately... I've become a slave to the hive-mind. Some of the criticism of the album, that it is less than the sum of it's parts, is true, but what parts they are. Parker snidely referring to Gillespie as "my worthy constituent" in his spoken introduction to "Salt Peanuts" always brings a smile, and the band really brings it here, especially Bird who backs up his comments with some torrid soloing. Roach is great on this selection and on the equally powerful "Hot House" and "Wee" where the whole group just kicks things into overdrive. The impact of the album would be even greater if the sound quality was better. Mingus sounds good, because he went back and re-recorded himself to make up for being inaudible on the original recordings. Instruments drift on and off mic and there are some strange cuts and transitions, but in a way this just adds to the idiosyncratic nature of this classic album - one that's well worth revisiting by any jazz fan.
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