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Concerts recaptured

MUSIC | Albums showcase a capricious Dylan and bebop jazz


Bob Dylan Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Concerts recaptured
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Other than the word complete, what do The Complete Budokan 1978 and Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings have in common? Both seek to capture, recapture, or re-recapture concerts unique among their respective performers’ onstage recordings.

Bob Dylan’s The Complete Budokan 1978 presents the two Tokyo shows initially mined 45 years ago for what at the time was Dylan’s third live offering in four years, Bob Dylan at Budokan. It was an album that, despite going gold, flummoxed the faithful, many of whom felt that the new arrangements of some of their hero’s most beloved songs showcased his 11-member band at the expense of the material itself. They had a point.

The revisionism didn’t hurt “Ballad of a Thin Man” or “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” But giving “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” the reggae treatment, recasting “All I Really Want To Do” as the heir apparent of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” and outfitting “I Shall Be Released” for Las Vegas seemed capricious. Critics gave the album a drubbing.

The Complete Budokan is getting a warmer reception. Yet except for a new mix and the addition of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Girl From the North Country,” and Roland Janes and Tampa Red covers, it’s hard to see why. Sure, there’s more of the music, but the music itself hasn’t changed.

The real reason for the belated enthusiasm is probably that, with Dylan currently engaged in what could very well be his final tour, his audience is more grateful than ever for anything bearing his name. Fair enough. Just take the glowing reviews with a grain of sand.

Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings presents in its entirety the legendary May 15, 1953, Toronto performance of the jazz supergroup Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach.

What makes Hot House less of an occasion than it might’ve been is that the concert has been released and re-­released before. So the main selling points for owners of 1973’s The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever or 2004’s Complete Jazz at Massey Hall are the new edition’s negligible “audio restoration” and its inclusion of both the un-overdubbed 13-song program and the six-song 1953 version with overdubbed bass.

Is it the greatest jazz concert ever? The “greatest bebop concert ever” maybe. Yet even then the now 70-year-old performance would only qualify as superlative if bebop qualifies as the greatest jazz genre ever. After listening to what the Parker-Gillespie quintet accomplished that night in Toronto, you just might think it does.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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