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The Quintet

Jazz Stories at Massey Hall

Here at Soundboard, it’s difficult to drop the word ‘jazz’ without referring to a particular night in Massey Hall history: May 15, 1953, the night of what’s come to be known – and, occasionally, the name under which the recording of that night has been released – The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever.
The Quintet, as the band became known, comprised five of jazz’s top talents, gathered for the first and only time: Charlie “Bird” Parker (sax), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Charles Mingus (bass) and Max Roach (drums). This legendary concert has, in the decades since, done much to remind us that you can’t spell “history” without “story.”

Jazz @ Massey Hall Podcast

If you ever search “Jazz at Massey Hall” on Twitter, you’ll notice that multiple times a day, every day, people are listening to and praising that Greatest Jazz Concert Ever. “The Quintet” performed on May 15, 1953 – Dizzy, Mingus, Max Roach, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell all together on the same stage. This was the first and only time these jazz heavyweights ever performed publicly together and was said to be the last “recorded meeting” of Parker and Gillespie. The recording itself was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is regularly referenced and name checked (such as it was on HBO this past season on an episode of Treme for example).

Even as recently as this season, during the first concert in our Jazz @ Massey Hall series (the Chick Corea Trio), bassist Christian McBride tweeted:

An AWESOME night in Toronto last night. I love that town. It’s hard to play Massey Hall and not think of Bird, Dizzy, Bud, Mingus and Max. - 5:30 AM Oct 6th, 2010 via web”


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In the lower level of Massey Hall you’ll find ‘Centuries,’ a fully-stocked bar you can visit pre-show and at intermission of most performances. The room is filled with artifacts illustrating the admirable history of Massey Hall, perhaps most notably the “Decade Panels” that line the entrance corridor to ‘Centuries.’ Starting with 1894-1904, a panel is present for each decade since Massey Hall opened. The panels feature news articles, photographs, programmes and other paraphernalia that aim to give a slice of life at Massey Hall from that period in history. In this column, we look at each decade and highlight some of the items included in these panels. Of course, for a more in-depth look, next time you’re at Massey for a show, head on over to ‘Centuries’ and check them out. This week, we take a look at 1944 – 1953, the sixth in a series of eleven tributes to Massey Hall’s glorious history.

It would be in this decade that Massey Hall celebrated its Golden Anniversary while life slowly returned to normal in Toronto following the conclusion of the Second World War. Events at Massey varied greatly and included performance from CONTINUE READING >