One of the first records I ever heard was the original “Perdido” from Jazz at the Philharmonic, with tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips playing his soon-to-be-legendary solo, battling it out with Illinois Jacquet, and backed up beautifully by Jo Jones on drums. If memory serves, that JATP recording was made in 1947 at Carnegie Hall, and the music writers say Flip was “forced” to repeat his set-in-stone solo, almost note-for-note, until the JATP ride ended around 1957. I was hooked from day one. I always believed that jazz should be exciting.
Norman Granz, founder and JATP instigator, was a singular human being. He insisted that all the members of his troupe traveled first class and were treated on a first class basis all the way. He kept mainstreamers like Roy Eldridge, Lester Young and yes, Gene Krupa, in the limelight by making them stars of his tours. He mixed and matched players from different eras. As an example, a JATP front line might have included Prez, Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, backed up by a rhythm section that included Oscar Peterson and Gene Krupa. I’ll never figure out why this isn’t being done today. Why isn’t there a recording, just as an example, of vibist Terry Gibbs and Gary Burton playing together? I could venture a guess, given the personality of Mr. Gary Burton, but it still should be done.
This is why the “discovery” of our Hamburg, Germany, concert of 1956 is so important. Here, on the same stage for one of the few times in history, were Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Illinois Jacquet, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and Ella Fitzgerald. Backing all of them up from the drums? Gene Krupa.
Gene was musically a generation behind artists like Ella and Dizzy, but he backed them up so sensitively, so thoughtfully and so happily, that the more than two hours of music presented at this show is simply a total joy to hear. Though it could be my ears playing tricks on me, I swear that Dizzy and Ella never swung harder, and never sounded as happy as they do on these tracks. An added plus, of course, is the wonderful fidelity of these shows, which likely came from a German radio broadcast.
This is one of the few instances where I fervently believe that these programs should be released by a “major” record company. People need to hear this. If only out of loyalty (Verve did put out most of the original JATP recordings), these tracks were sent to Verve Records, where they are under consideration for future release. But as they say on T.V., “Wait…there’s more.”
After Norman Granz sold his Verve/Clef/Norgran catalog (and what a catalog it is) to MGM in 1961, he was effectively out of the record business. He came back in a big way in 1973 with his famed Pablo label, and again started putting together all kinds of players from all kinds of eras, on record (Oscar Peterson with Count Basie, Duke Ellington with Joe Pass, et al.). The Pablo imprint, as well as Fantasy Records and several other well-known jazz record labels, is now owned by Concord Jazz. I spoke to the good people at Concord recently about our “newly discovered” JATP release.
The good news? According to the folks in the archival department at Concord/Fantasy, there are “hundreds” of tapes of JATP concerts–both European and stateside–that sit in the vaults. This may even include the concert at hand, the Hamburg, Germany concert of February, 1956. And more good news is that this archival material may include more unreleased drum battles between Krupa and Rich, Krupa and Bellson, Bellson and Rich, J.C. Heard and Krupa, Jo Jones and Rich, and who knows what else.
The bad news? We were told, in no uncertain terms, that most of this material will remain unreleased, due to the costs involved of clearing the rights with the surviving artists, the estates of the artists, etc. Concord/Fantasy/Pablo will put one of these things out from time to time (their most recent release being an “unknown” JATP concert that featured Fats Navarro and Shelly Manne), but we were told, point blank, that “it’s just not worth the expense and the trouble.”
We did, however, get a promise that we would be informed of all of the undocumented JATP drum battles. At least that’s something.
If I had to pick two “must haves” from JazzLegends.com, it would have to be the “Championship Jazz” DVD of Gene, and these JATP shows. I urge you to get them. I don’t know how long we will be able to carry them.
And in terms of “special” and “singular,” stay tuned for more news about The Gene Krupa Jazz Trio’s television performance on the “Georgie Jessell Show” of 1954. Certainly, this will be something.
Finally, my thanks to all of you for your good wishes, thoughts and prayers about my mother, Frances Klauber. She is hanging in there, and just sang the other day with a visiting pianist who was entertaining at the Bryn Mawr Terrace Convalescent Home. She called me the next day complaining about his time.
We should all live so long…and have good time!!!
God bless and keep swingin’