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‘The Birth Of Bop’ Breaks The Compilation Mold In A Good Way

Late last month, bebop fans got a very special treat from Craft Recordings in the form of the new compilation record, The Birth of Bop.  Released March 31 on CD and vinyl, the 30-song compilation spans two discs on each platform and is a presentation that so many jazz fans will find fully engaging.  One reason for that engagement (and entertainment) is the compilation’s companion booklet.  More specifically, the information provided in the booklet’s extensive liner notes builds the foundation for that engagement and entertainment.  It will be discussed shortly.  The songs that make up the set’s body build on that foundation and add to the noted appeal.  They will be discussed a little later.  The songs’ production rounds out its most important elements and completes the collection’s presentation.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation.  All things considered they make the collection surprisingly one of the best new compilations to be released so far this year.

Craft Recordings’ recently released compilation record, The Birth of Bop, is one of the best new sets of its kind to be released so far this year.  That is actually saying a lot, considering that compilation records are, for the most part, generally just cash grabs for record labels.  This compilation feels like anything but that standard.  That is proven in part through its featured liner notes.  Crafted by award-winning jazz critic Neil Tesser, the liner notes offer such a rich background on the music that is bop and the songs featured throughout the compilation.  One of the most interesting items that Tesser points out in his notes is the reason that the songs featured in the collection span a very specific time frame – 1944 to 1949.  He points out that “a nationwide recording band, instituted by the musicians’ union had prevented the release of any new jazz from 1942-44, just when bop took shape in New York.”  Sadly, Tesser did not have the space that would have been needed to further that story.  According to multiple academic institutions, the ban was instituted by the American Federation of Musicians in connection with a strike over concerns regarding royalty payments for recorded performances.  There is far more to that story, but it is a deep presentation and Tesser’s note in the liner notes makes for a great start to people learning the whole story.  To that end, kudos are in order for Tesser on this information.

Tesser also provides some other music history in his notes, pointing out how bop as a musical form was born from the big band music of years prior.  He goes so far as to actually compare it to childbirth and raising a child, stating that bop was essentially a rebellion of sorts against the standards created by the big bands of the previous era of jazz.  That anecdote is both greatly informational and entertaining.  It is certain to entertain and engage audiences.

The information that Tesser provides on the birth of bop as a musical form is just part of what deserves applause here.  His in-depth background on each of the songs featured in the collection builds even more on the appeal of his work.  Right from the outset, Tesser points out why the collection’s opener, ‘Romance Without Finance,’ was not included in Savoy’s original Birth of Bop collections.  He notes that saxophonist Charlie Parker’s New Sounds in Modern Music records (10 records in all) featured the song and 30 other works that he recorded, so it made it “redundant to include them in The Birth of the Bop series” two years after the noted collection was released in 1951.  As the booklet progresses, it directly outlines which songs were pulled from which of Savoy’s previously released Birth of Bop collections.  What audiences discover is that the songs were sequenced here in exact order from those previous compilations.  So keeping everything in near precise order here from one collection to the next makes for wonderful aesthetic appeal.  All along the way, the information that Tesser shares on each song generates such welcome background.

As with the information Tesser shares regarding the time frame of bop’s birth, the information that Tesser presents makes for its own great starting point for listeners in their own journeys of discovery into the songs and musicians who recorded the works.  Between this and everything else noted here, it is clear that the liner notes featured in this collection set the groundwork for its appeal and are undeniably key to that engagement and entertainment.

Building on the appeal generated by the liner notes is the songs themselves.  Spread across two discs, the songs were crafted by the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, and Stan Getz.  As Tesser notes throughout the notes, they and the other musicians featured in the collection were really the founders of bop as a genre.  So in reality, what audiences get in these songs are works that were the beginnings of bop as a genre that would ultimately become just as respected as its predecessor and so many other jazz sub-genres.

On another level, the songs are important because of the availability of Savoy’s classic Birth of Bop records, or rather, the apparent limited availability of those classic recordings. They are hard to find through most retailers.  To that end, what audiences get here is a collection of classic songs in one place that they otherwise would have only been able to get through a variety of records.  That multitude of records would take up a lot of space on anyone’s CD and vinyl racks.  To that end, having the songs in this double-disc, gatefold CD packaging saves a lot of space while also bringing so much great classic jazz together in one place.  Add in the fact that the songs are examples of the formative sounds of bop as a genre, and what audiences get in these songs is just as much to appreciate from this set as the collection’s extensive, in-depth liner notes.

Putting the finishing touch to the collection’s presentation is the songs’ production.  From one song to the next, the audio in each song is so strong.  There are moments in which the static is there, adding to the positive aesthetic sense in the collection.  It creates so much nostalgia among audiences who grew up with the music while doing just as much for listeners who otherwise might be new to the music of the greatest generation.  That great sound presented from each song is a tribute to those charged with taking care of the songs for their presentation here.  Keeping that in mind, those individuals in question are to be applauded for their time and effort.  When the positive aesthetic impact of the production is considered along with the appeal ensured by the collection’s songs and the liner notes, the whole makes this collection a joy from beginning to end for any jazz fan and a compilation record that is actually surprisingly worth owning among said audiences.

Craft Recordings’ new compilation recording, The Birth of Bop, is a presentation that fans of bop and jazz fans in general will find engaging and entertaining.  That is due in no small part to the foundation formed through the collection’s liner notes.  The extensive, in-depth liner notes present so much interesting history and background on bop as a genre and the songs and musicians who were part of its formative era.  That information alone is reason enough for audiences to take in the collection.  The songs themselves add to the collection’s appeal.  That is because they will save space for audiences on their CD and vinyl racks, being collected in one place.  Additionally, the apparent limited availability of Savoy’s original Birth of Bop records makes these songs all the more important since they were pulled from said collections.  The production of said songs puts the finishing touch to the recording, ensuring a welcome sense of nostalgia through the expert sound balance in each composition.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the collection.  All things considered they make The Birth of Bop a compilation that bop and jazz fans in general will find surprisingly worth owning.

The Birth of Bop is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Craft Recordings is available at: