The Be-Bop Boys (March 12th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)


A very straightforward but exciting day of listening. I was a bit overwhelmed with tutoring chores and catching up on reading, but I made time for some amazing work by the individuals pictured above: pianist Bud Powell (left), saxophonist Sonny Stitt (center), and trumpeter Kenny Dorham (trumpet).

When the average music fan with a broad but general taste thinks about unit that personify the style known as be-bop, she must first think of Charlie Parker’s units with first Dizzy Gillespie and then Miles Davis on trumpet, usually driven to their legendary heights by Max Roach on drums. And those groups produced unquestionably masterful, exciting music that you can live your whole life with and never grow tired of. But another unit, recording during the same general time period, recorded stunning and thrilling tunes of their own that, while it may not match Bird’s group’s work for emotional intensity, will stop you short with their skill and invention.

I’m talking about the Be-Bop Boys, led by Powell, Stitt, and Dorham, virtuosos and composers all, occasionally augmented by two other young greats, Fats Navarro on trumpet and Kenny Clarke on drums. Here, Powell is poised to become, with his friend Thelonious Monk, the most influential pianist of his generation; Stitt is contending furiously for Parker’s alto mantle (experts differ on who was first to the attack they share, though the mercurial nature of the latter’s playing make them easy to distinguish–to my ear at least); Dorham, perhaps more in the shade than his compatriots, plays with a control that belies his years.

Of special note are the original versions of tunes that would later become established Powell classics (“Bebop in Pastel”–> “Bouncing with Bud”; “Fool’s Fancy”–> “Wail”), as well as another that is probably this unit’s claim to lasting fame in the jazz book: “Webb City.”

But here–don’t trust me. Partake and judge for yourself with this Be-Bop Boys playlist, which includes the three tracks above and more:

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