Jazz Friday: Salt Peanuts at Massey Hall

There are very few live recordings of the bebop jazz titans in the early days. That’s why the May 1953 Massey Hall concert is especially loved by jazz fans. The band included Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. It was the only time these five played together and it is the last recording of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie together. (Charlie Parker shows up in some liner notes as “Charlie Chan”, because he was contractually prohibited from recording on the label.)

A further bit of interesting backstory was that this event was never planned to be the epic recording it became. The event was planned as a fundraiser for the Toronto Jazz Society but there was a prize fight the same night and the turnout was much lower than expected. The musician’s checks bounced and they decided to release a recording so they could get paid.

Nevertheless, we end up wbith this great little time capsule of bebop and it is a great listen. I’d recommend buying the entire album but the best track is Salt Peanuts. It starts out with Charlie Parker introducing the song by his “worthy constituent”, Dizzy Gillespie. Then, once the song gets rolling and Bird (Charlie Parker) starts playing his solo, Dizzy Gillespie started throwing handfuls of peanuts at the audience while screaming “SALT PEANUTS”. Finally, Max Roach delivers a stellar drum solo at the end. It all comes out on the recording and makes me smile every time I listen to it. When my kids were young, we used to drive around listening to this track screaming “SALT PEANUTS” at the top of our lungs. I bet I could still get my kids to do it.

iTunes only sells it as a full album but the remastered version sounds pretty good. If you just want to listen to Salt Peanuts, it is on YouTube.