Speakers Corner – (Vinyl)
By Paul Rigby
Record producer and promoter, Norman Grantz began a series of collective shows, back in 1944, which featured a jazz-based, all-star, cast that was entitled Jazz At The Philharmonic. Originally arranged as a charity fundraiser, the successful event took on a life of its own as was repeated many times with changing line-ups depending on who was available and who was hot to trot. Eventually, the ensemble was taken on foreign tours and now, via Speakers Corner, you can buy a chunk of one of the tours. Specifically, from 21st November 1960, in the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden.
Within the pizza-style container sit four, beautifully mastered, LPs that represent four individual albums, released to commemorate the event, featuring greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge and, a little unusually, Lalo Schifrin. This is the first time the four LPs have been collected together and the first time that the albums have been re-issued.
Arriving with an LP-sized booklet, each album is presented as a single entity with an inner sleeve and card outer sleeve with full cover art and its own liner notes on the rear.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the whole Jazz At The Philharmonic project was the fact that so many stars were involved. All of the musicians and vocalists were stars in their own right, with egos to match.
Listening to these disks, the apparent relationship seems good and it helps the music, giving a certain glue or bond to the performance. There appears, on the fact of it, to be an element of camaraderie. Yet, how far did this run? Was it all ‘show’ for the audience? Did these performances reveal a smile on stage only to revert to knifes in the back, off it?
There were, apparently, no arguments. As sometime performer, drummer, Buddy Rich himself explained, there was a surprising amount of harmony on these tours, “I did six or seven tours with Norman and I don’t think that there was ever a time on any tour, no-matter where we travelled to, where there was a feeling of animosity. Jealousy or ego never became involved in the music because Grantz was enough of a showman to give everybody a chance. He would let us all play. Everyone had a chance to produce. If they didn’t produce, that was your problem.”
And that’s what you can certainly hear here. Whether it be Stan Getz on tenor sax, J.J Johnson on trombone or Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, there is certainly a sense of ‘gay abandon’, in the original sense of the phrase, on these recordings that definitely helps both the atmosphere and quality of the recording.
Considering that this is a live recording, the inky black silences, where appropriate, draw you right into each performance which lights up with vitality and energy. The sheer clarity of this remaster is stunning. Highly recommended.
1. Bernie’s Tune
2. Swedish Jam
1. All The Things You Are
1. Sweet Georgia Brown
2. Bop ‘n Boogie
1. I Waited For You
1. Take The ‘A’ Train
2. Indiana (Back Home Again)
1. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)
3. The Nearness Of You
4. You Got To My Head
5. A Jazz Portrait of Brigitte Bardot
1. The Mooch
2. Wheatleigh Hall
Stand-out track: Take The ‘A’ Train
A classic Duke Ellington-penned track that is given a lengthy, dynamic, work-out here. A sparkling ensemble piece that will provide many individual mid-range and treble-based highlights to any Hi-Fi.