Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Bird At Dial


The following is taken from memories recounted by Ross Russell. Ross became a convert to the 'new sound' of jazz in the mid-forties and soon afterwards started the Dial record company, for which Charlie Parker made some of his earliest and finest recordings:


Charlie Parker and Ross Russell

Charlie Parker and Ross Russell


My background had been in the jazz classics - Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. Just after the war I opened a record store in Hollywood, intending to sell these kinds of records (The Tempo Music Store - Ed). Without going into the background, the store became a battleground between "mouldy figs" and hipsters, with the hipsters coming out on top after a few Ross Russell Tempo Music Storemonths. We ended up selling a lot more records by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker than we did of, say, Duke Ellington or Benny Goodman. The Dial label was an outgrowth of the store ...


Ross Russell's Tempo Music Store


The first Dial recording date was to be the Dizzy Gillespie - Charlie Parker band which had come into Billy Berg's club in Hollywood, during the first month of 1946, I believe. We planned to have a rehearsal before the date. It took place at sort of a little offbeat studio in Glendale, California, which was part of some kind of a religious network. It was actually in a wing of a church in a little park - almost a Grey's "Elegy" setting. But it certainly didn't look the way the owners intended when this rehearsal got going. The word had gotten around over the hip grapevine, and the studio, which was fairly roomy, was jammed; nobody could move around. It was full of these hip types - they were something pretty new to me in 1946.

The band at this rehearsal was not exactly the one at Berg's. There were a couple of changes: Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Milt Jackson and Lucky Thompson formed the front line, just as they did at the club. Al Haig was pianist at the club, but George Handy, the pianist and arranger, had come to this rehearsal. He had signed the contract and was getting the musicians together. Then the band was filled out with Ray Brown on bass, Stan Levy on drums, with an added starter in Arvin Garrison's guitar. Lester Young was also supposed to be on the date, but he never did get there.

At this rehearsal, we had the studio for at least three hours, and during that time, we actually recorded one thing that was later released on Dial, a version of "Diggin' Diz". But the confusion was terrible. The hippies who jammed the studio kept interfering with the musicians and the engineers, and I was too inexperienced to get the situation under control.


Listen to the Diggin' Diz recording.





Charlie Parker and Miles Davis



One other little incident impressed me at this rehearsal. One person who came to the studio was a man with a reputation in Europe as a concert artist, I believe a violinist. He knew quite a bit about recording, and he had agreed to come over as a friendly advisor to help me over the rough spots of my first recording. He was standing up there in the monitor room looking out through the glass, scowling, and trying to dig the scene - all the musicians tuning up and all the hipsters walking around. Bird finally got the horn unpacked and got his strap on and put the horn to his mouth. I remember my classical friend was standing there, and, all of a sudden, these notes started to fly out of the alto saxophone like machine gun bullets, and the man sort of staggered - he took two or three backwards steps as if someone had suddenly shot him. And he cried out, "Who is that?" He'd just never heard anything like it.....


Charlie Parker and Miles Davis


...... We did the first official date with Charlie Parker, the "Ornithology" and "Night In Tunisia" date, two or three months after the date with Dizzy ......and Bird felt very happy in having Miles Davis, who must have been in his early twenties at the time. Miles had come to Los Angeles with one of the traveling bands - probably Billy Eckstine's band - and, as I recall, he had left it there .....

.... On this date there were no other people in the studio at all. We had learned our lesson .....'


From Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker by Robert George Reisner


Listen to the Ornithology recording and perhaps imagine what Ross Russell's classical violinist friend experienced!




© Sandy Brown Jazz 2021

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Behind The Chorus Line
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