In September 1945 Billboard announced that Norman Granz was negotiating to undertake a full blown coast-to-coast tour with his Jazz At The Philharmonic touring package. Billboard reported that Granz would emcee the whole affair, with the tour finishing up in New York playing Carnegie Hall – live jazz was taking on a whole new dimension.
Putting a tour like this on the road was a challenge and Granz had little experience – he had just turned twenty-seven years old. Before heading out of town, JATP gave a concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles on 26 November. It was billed as ‘Norman Granz Presents’ because the management of the hall had banned him from using the name of the venue in any advertising: according to the manager, ‘Jazz is all right in its place’; clearly he did not think that his place was that place.
Listen to Jazz At The Phil – The Complete Jazz At the Philharmonic On Verve (1944-1949) right now.
A month before the November Philharmonic concert, Asch Records announced they were releasing Volume 1 of Jazz At The Philharmonic. It had been a struggle to get any label interested in releasing the collection of 78-rpm recordings.
The tour bus headed out of town a day or so after the Philharmonic concert and while it has been recorded that they played in Portland, Seattle, and Victoria, British Columbia, no other firm dates have come to light. There were five sets in the show, starting with Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Lucky Thompson and the rhythm section, followed by Slim (Gaillard) and Bam (Brown), then Hawk and his band, boogie pianist extraordinaire Meade Lux Lewis unaccompanied, and the finale featuring the whole group and singer Helen Humes.
The tour by all accounts was something of disaster; small audiences, uncomfortable travel arrangements and the fact that the show in at least one place was billed as ‘Norman Granz’s Jazz Symphony’ hardly helped. Granz pulled the plug after the Victoria concert; for a while the East Coast would have to wait.
Two weeks after the tour ended, Billboard reported that ‘The Jazz at the Philharmonic gimmick which Norman Granz, MCA and Joe Glaser launched last month folded recently due to personnel trouble after Roy Eldridge, backbone of the concert venture, decided to form his own ork. Other stars provided Granz with sufficient headaches to force cancellations of the tour after a few engagements. Granz drew okay while it lasted.’
Back in Los Angeles Granz organized his last concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium on 28 January 1946, and what a last concert it was, with Bird and Diz both there, along with Lester Young – the Pres had not long been released from army service. Charlie Parker’s appearance almost did not happen, as his heroin addiction meant that he needed to score and he only got on stage after the second number, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ had started.
In 1950 Mercury released three 78s in an album they called Jazz at The Philharmonic, Vol. II from the 28 January 1946 Los Angeles concert. Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Willie Smith (alto saxophone), Lester Young and Charlie Ventura (tenor saxophone), Mel Powell (piano), Billy Hadnott (bass) and Lee Young (drums).
In 1956 Verve repackaged many of the JATP concert series of albums into new 12 inch long playing records. This time JATP volume 2 featured 4 songs – ‘Crazy Rhythm’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, ‘Blues for Norman’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’. The featured players were, Dizzy Gillespie – trumpet (‘Crazy Rhythm’ ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’), Al Killian – trumpet (‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, ‘Blues For Norman’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’), Howard McGhee – trumpet (‘Blues For Norman’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’), Willie Smith – alto saxophone, Charlie Parker – alto saxophone (‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, ‘Blues for Norman’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’), Lester Young – tenor saxophone, Charlie Ventura – tenor saxophone (‘Crazy Rhythm’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’), Mel Powell – piano (‘Crazy Rhythm’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’), Arnold Ross – piano (‘Blues For Norman’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’), Billy Hadnott – bass, Lee Young – drums.
Jazz At The Phil – The Complete Jazz At the Philharmonic On Verve (1944-1949) can be bought here.