Dexter GORDON – Bopland (The Legendary Elks Club Concert L.A. 1947) 2004

Dexter GORDON – Bopland (The Legendary Elks Club Concert L.A. 1947) 2004
Recorded at Elks Auditorium Jazz Concert-Dance, Los Angeles, July 6th 1947

Jazz

At long last the historic Elks Club Concert from 1947 has been released in its entirety. This event has been excerpted countless times on 78s, 10″ LPs, 12″ long-players, and even on CDs both officially issued and pirated. The significance of the concert can hardly be overstated, since it features a sheer who’s who of the Los Angeles Central Avenue jam scene at the dawn of the bebop era. While Dexter Gordon is a prominent figure in this collection, he is by no means the only one. Gordon was a featured soloist with the Howard McGhee Orchestra in 1947, and the other players in this illustrious outfit include Wardell Gray, Sonny Criss, Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, McGhee (of course), Trummy Young, drummer Roy Porter, and bassist Harry Babasin. The 19-plus minute jam on “Bopera” (aka Coleman Hawkins’ “Disorder at the Border”) is a stunning cutting session featuring burning solos from the players. The other orchestras on this amazing evening included Wild Bill Moore’s — which starred pianist Russ Freeman and tenor man Gene Montgomery — and Earl Coleman with the Al Killian Orchestra, featuring Gray, Freeman, Criss, Kessel, and Red Callender. In addition, the loose, one-night-only collective the Bopland Boys was an amalgam of the McGhee group and the rhythm section from the Killian orchestra. Over the three discs here are stretched-out blowing sessions, woolly blues, and stridently played standards — all with top-notch soloing. What is most significant, aside from having this material assembled together for the first time, is that this is the first time anywhere listeners have gotten to hear the much-rumored extended take of “Perdido” until now. Over 20 minutes in length and played by the Moore band, it is one of the highlights of recorded jazz in the 1940s. Add to this the startlingly brutal “Bopland” (aka “Byas-A-Drink”), the slippery “Bop After Hours,” and the beautiful and swinging “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and you have one amazing package. Given the venue and the different cutting lathes (these were cut straight to 16″discs from the inside out), there are some quality problems; the overall fidelity is decent but certainly not more than that — but nothing to seriously mar the offering. Recommended.
By Thom Jurek. AMG.
**
Three discs which make up almost three hours of music. Digitally remastered with the noise reduction system used judiciously. The sound itself suffers from initial recording problems ,to occasional musicians being off-mic. The sound is a bit flat,but is very acceptable. After saying the above,I would have to say if you like/love jazz,and want to hear the beginnings of hard-bop jazz on the West Coast-buy this.

In one package you have the entire concert/dance the way it was played. Some of the music was not recorded-the stylus was simply lifted off the acetate discs,for whatever reason,however,it’s not missed. What there is,is a good look at jazz in Los Angeles in the late 1940’s. There are several bands that consist of a revolving group of players. People like Howard McGhee-trumpet,Sonny Criss-alto sax,Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray-tenor saxes,Barney Kessel-guitar,Hampton Hawes and Russ Freeman-pianos,plus several others who make up some swinging groups. Be aware that a lot of the unreleased material is very short and doesn’t really add a great deal to the music. Saying that,it’s nice to have it all in one place because it gives a real feel for the times.

The tracks of most interest are quite lengthy-13-21 minutes or so in length. The booklet notes break down the solos on these pieces so that the listener will know without a doubt who’s playing. This is ideal and I wish it was done in more instances. It’s amazing to think that Dexter Gordon was in his twenties,along with several others,when this was recorded. The contrast between the younger players and the older,more traditional players gives the music a real appeal because the merging of styles came together in such a fine way.

The booklet is informative in giving the listener a bit of insight into the era in which this music was recorded. The graphics on the packaging too,are in keeping with the era. All in all,a very nice package. This is one of those instances where good jazz,combined with historical interest comes together to make a set of significance-it should be more well known.
By Stuart Jefferson.
**
This set catches Dexter in an early exciting phase of his playing. He has always been really special. There was a lot of write ups of Dexter Gordon’s duels with Wardell Gray. You just did not get the feel of it from their duel record which came from a couple of 78’s.

When you hear the audience greet Wardell Gray, they are reasonably enthusiastic and welcoming. When Dexter Gordon is announced, the crowd goes crazy. The set it worth it just for the moment when Dexter is announced. For a moment, you are really going back in time when Dexter was really cutting his teeth.

The music is fine. It is a jam session with all of the sloppiness of an unrehearsed session, but with all of the excitement of the unknown and surprise.

This is a set worth having, but it is really for collectors and specialists. Fans that heard Dexter in the 1970’s during his American comeback when he was playing with a modern, post-bop rhythm section with players of extraordinary technique and facility may be disappointed.

If you want to hear Dexter with a modern band (George Duke, Rufus Reid, and Eddie Gladden) in a club mileau with virtuoisity and flare to spare, buy Dexter Gordon at the Both/And Club. The sound is not perfect. Apparently, George Duke rescued the tape from obscurity and decrepidness, but it is a hell of a ride.
By L. Topper.
**
Despite its mixed sonic quality, Bopland is a historic three-CD treasure. It contains as much as could be gleaned from surviving acetates of a July 6, 1947 jazz summit featuring some of the West Coast’s finest emerging musicians at the time. It was a mere two to three years after Charlie Parker and his collaborators began changing the face of modern jazz, principally in New York.
This evening concert at the Elks Club in L.A.—billed as an evening for dancers as much as pure listeners—featured four different combinations of players. Among the featured soloists were saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, and Sonny Criss; trumpeters Howard McGhee and Al Killian; trombonist Trummy Young, guitarist Barney Kessel, and teenage pianist Hampton Hawes.

Gordon’s extended solo showcase on “Cherokee” (called “Geronimo” here) and “Bop After Hours” are among the highlights. A 20-minute version of “Perdido” (featuring veteran tenor players Bill Moore and Gene Montgomery) seemed to get the wildest crowd response that night. It pales in musical comparison to an 18-minute version of “The Hunt” that was primarily an extended tenor sax battle between the younger Gordon and Gray.

The latter tune soon surfaced in an eight-part series of 78 rpm recordings on producer Ralph Bass’ Bop! Records. The inventiveness and ideas make the music fresh and interesting, even 57 years later. And it makes me wonder if they were recordings that caught the ear of Ellington tenor great Paul Gonsalves. The raw energy of those solos predated his historic one-man, 27-chorus tenor “battle” at Newport in 1956.
By Ken Franckling.
**
Howard McGhee Orchestra,
Bill Moore Orchestra,
Al Killian Orchestra and
The Bopland Boys featuring combinations of;

Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Wild Bill Moore, Gene Montgomery- Tenor Saxophone;
Sonny Criss- Alto Saxophone
Al Killian, Howard McGhee- Trumpet;
Trummy Young- Trombone;
Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel- Guitar;
Russ Freeman- Piano;
Red Callender, Harry Babasin, Shifty Henry- Bass;
Roy Porter, Tim Kennedy, Leroy Gray- Drums;
Earl Coleman- Vocals.
**
Cd1
01. Tune-Up/Announcement 2:44
02. Bopera (Disorder at the Border) (Hawkins) 20:53
03. What Is This Thing Called Love ? (Porter) 15:36
04. Body and Soul [#/take] (Green) 1:50
05. Back Breaker [#/take] (Eyton, Green, Heyman, Sour) 16:22

Cd2
01. Tune-Up/Announcement 2:09
02. Bopland (aka Byas-A-Drink) (Byas) 20:09
03. Bop After Hours (After Hours Bop) [#] (Unknow) 18:31
04. The Hunt (aka Rocks ‘n’ Shoals) (McGhee) 18:08

Cd3
01. Perdido [#] (Drake, Langsfelder, Tizol) 21:24
02. Merry Go Round Blues [#] (Unknow) 0:14
03. Blowin’ With Bass [#/take] (Unknow) 6:02
04. Blow, Blow, Blow [#/take] (Unknow) 14:10
05. Geronimo (Cherokee) (Noble 21:25
06. Unknown Theme [#] [take 1] 0:51
07. Unknown Theme [#] [take 1] 0:53
**


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