Warming Up For The TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Jazz At Massey Hall

June 20, 2016 | Beau

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This year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival kicks off this Friday, June 24th and runs until July 3rd, which makes this a good time to learn more about the history of jazz in Toronto. Hogtown might not be the first city you think of when you think of jazz, but it's not without its own rich traditions and legacy in that musical department.

For starters, did you know that what some people call "the greatest jazz concert ever" took place right here in Toronto? On May 15th, 1953, an unrivaled lineup of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach (known thereafter as simply "The Quintet") played at Massey Hall. The audience was surprisingly sparse because there was a heavyweight prize fight that night between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, and legend has it Parker had to be dragged out of a bar across the street after the intermission, where he was sitting and drinking triple scotches.

Fortunately, the concert was recorded for future audiences to study and enjoy (even if Parker was billed as "Charlie Chan" because he was under contract with a different record company). The CD, entitled The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall, is available to be signed out at TPL:


If you'd like to do more than just listen to the concert, jazz historian Mark Miller has written a book, Cool Blues: Charlie Parker In Canada 1953, about Parker's visit, which included three weeks at a jazz workshop in Montreal before the Massey Hall concert. It includes previously unpublished photos of the members of The Quintet, as well as histories of the jazz communities in both cities.



If you're interested in reading about Massey Hall enjoy these blog posts: