Jazz festivals, by their very nature, lean heavily on all-star groups of musicians who don’t work together often — sometimes resulting in a gathering of brilliant names that is less than the sum of its parts. This set, nearly an hour, is an exception. Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson had associations going back to 1933; Bobby Hackett appeared memorably on a few of Teddy’s recording dates in 1938. Larry Ridley was a versatile player, often called in for such gatherings (he supported Benny, Bobby, and Teddy at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York for a jam session at Radio City Music Hall). Sometimes his bass is not caught well by the microphones, but when it is, it is lovely.
Those four players did not travel in the same orbits in the Seventies, so it is a wondrous thing that they were caught together, not only in performance, but for posterity by French radio.
I’ve left the drummer, David Lee, Jr. (1941-2021) for last, because initially he seems distant from the rhythmic feel of the other players, even though his working associations were with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins, who understood swing, if in their own idiosyncratic ways. But Lee adapts himself more as the session continues and his hi-hat, initially relentless, is less distracting.
In 2023, only Larry Ridley (born 1937) survives. Bobby would die of a heart attack less than a year later. Note that Bobby, always gracious, calls a Carter composition for his feature. Easy medium tempos and arching lyrical solos are consistent beauties here.
Bobby Hackett, trumpet (or cornet?); Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Larry Ridley, string bass; David Lee, Jr., drums. Grande Parade du Jazz, July 18, 1975. Broadcast on French radio: audio only.
I MAY BE WRONG / LOVER, COME BACK TO ME / CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? / ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET / BLUES IN MY HEART (Hackett) / BODY AND SOUL (Carter) / WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
I’m not sure that great art ever points the way to a “moral,” but two occur to me. One is to bless these adaptable musicians, so sweetly durable. Their lyricism did not age and will not. The second is to tip our hats in the direction of Thomas Edison’s lab in New Jersey . . . and bless all recording equipment. Yes, “recording” brings us TikTok, but it also made these notes and tones eternal, undying.
May your happiness increase!