May 15, 1953
Legendary jazz concert; jazz immortals Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach play together for the only time in their lives. It was the only time that the five men recorded together as a unit, and it was the last recorded meeting of Parker and Gillespie. Parker played a Grafton saxophone on this date; he could not be listed on the original album cover for contractual reasons, so was billed as “Charlie Chan” (an allusion to the fictional detective and to Parker’s wife Chan). The record was originally issued on Mingus’s label Debut, from a recording made by the Toronto New Jazz Society. Mingus took the recording to New York where he and Max Roach dubbed in the bass lines, which were under-recorded on most of the tunes, and exchanged Mingus soloing on “All the Things You Are.”
The original plan was for the Jazz Society and the musicians to share the profits from the recording. However the audience was so small that the Society was unable to pay the musicians’ fees. The musicians were all given NSF checks, and only Parker was able to actually cash his; Gillespie complained that he did not receive his fee “for years and years”.
A 2004 re-issue contains the full concert, without the over-dubbing which was added by Charles Mingus on the original recording. The new version was titled “Complete Jazz at Massey Hall”.
Jazz at Massey Hall was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995. It is included in National Public Radio’s “Basic Jazz Library”. The concert was issued in some territories under the tag “the greatest jazz concert ever”.