The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall, newly remastered and reissued by Concord Music Group, contains an all-star concert, recorded May 15, 1953. The performance was guaranteed to sustain interest over the years based on its participants. Charlie Parker, billed on the original album for contractual reasons as “Charlie Chan,” forgot his horn but played a borrowed plastic alto. Dizzy Gillespie was in fine form on trumpet, especially on his own tunes, “Salt Peanuts” and “A Night in Tunisia.” Bud Powell and Max Roach turn in characteristically strong work on piano and drums, respectively. Roach’s solo on “Wee (Allen’s Alley)” is particularly exciting.
Charles Mingus decided to record the show–definitely a good move. Having five ace musicians share the stage was bound to produce worthwhile results. But the bass player felt his instrument wasn’t well represented on the single-mic recording. So he dubbed new lines for the released album–not such a good move. Unlike most rock or pop concerts, where the bass lines are usually predetermined patterns that can easily be repeated, the improvisational nature of jazz made it impossible for Mingus to recreate his exact lines–even if he had wanted to. Heck, why not overdub Roach’s drums when they’re less than robust? How about adding some extra audience reactions in places where they were relatively non-responsive?
The point is this is not a true document of the performance. Listen closely to Mingus’ solo on “All the Things You Are” and you’ll hear two bass lines–his faint original underneath the dubbed part. If this was the only way to hear the concert, that would be one thing. But the undubbed concert is available as Complete Jazz at Massey Hall, released in 2004 on the Jazz Factory label. True, the bass is weak but it is audible–and it’s the original, unaltered performance.
Also note the word “complete” in the title. Concord Music Group’s remastered The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall contains the original album’s six quintet tracks. But the group, sans Parker and Gillespie, played half a dozen additional tunes. True, they’re playing as a trio rather than a quintet–perhaps a bit strange for an album called The Quintet. But since you can get it all on Complete Jazz at Massey Hall, that’s the more desirable release.