Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings Receives Ultimate 70th Anniversary 180g 3LP Restoration of Complete 1953 Performance by The Quintet in Toronto, Including the Original Tapes Without Charles Mingus’ Bass Overdubs

The May 15, 1953 performance at Massey Hall in Toronto by The Quintet, five of the most important mid-century change agents who transformed jazz music as we know it today — trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, bassist Charles Mingus, pianist Bud Powell, and drummer Max Roach — is incredible on so many levels. At the time, several of these players were on the outs with one another, as far as their personal relationships went — especially Parker and Gillespie —yet they all somehow performed brilliantly. The concert itself was tragically under-promoted, literally facing off with the now legendary Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott II boxing match that was happening concurrently in Chicago, prompting many folks to just stay home and listen to it on the radio. (Even Dizzy Gillespie was reportedly running off stage between tunes to check the fight’s status on his portable radio!)

Add to that the challenges of the original recording itself not being made properly, prompting an angered Mingus (who ultimately produced the ensuing 1953 10-inch album series, Jazz at Massey Hall) to take matters into his own hands by re-recording those bass parts of his that were not fully recorded on the tape. The resulting master could have been a complete mess, to say the least.

That the final Massey Hall audio documentation of The Quartet still somehow captured and conveyed that night’s outstanding onstage energy is remarkable in its own right. These five players were professionals ultimately able to put aside their personal issues, coming together to make amazing music for the limited audience in attendance. What they probably didn’t know at the time was they were making a statement for audiences yet unborn who would go on to study and cherish this music for decades into the future.


And now, we get it all with this new 70th anniversary definitive edition of that concert, thanks to Craft Recordings. Officially titled Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings, this 3LP set pairs Mingus’ over-dubbed first-generation tape of the concert with the complete original master performance (i.e., pre-overdubs) as well as the trio set featuring Powell as backed by Mingus and Roach. Each of these recordings had been issued independently over the years in various form factors. Initially available on three individual — and now ultra-rare — 10-inch LPs issued in 1953 on Mingus’ own Debut Records label (and later on 12-inch, in 1956), this new Hot House collection is the first compilation of them under one roof.

In fact, the 3LP Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings is about as definitive a package as jazz fans might have ever dreamed (and it has an SRP of $99.99). From the official press, we find that, “Rounding out both physical formats are rare photos from the evening, plus two essays that offer fascinating behind-the-scenes stories. The first is by David Scharf, whose father, Alan Scharf, was among the concert’s organizers and was one of the photographers who documented the event. The second was written by Don Brown, an attendee at the show, who provides a captivating play-by-play account of the evening.”

As to the audio DNA of Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings, we learn from the official site that it “features meticulous 24-bit audio restoration and remastering by the GRAMMY®-winning engineer, Paul Blakemore. Lacquers for the vinyl edition were cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl.”

So, yes, there is no doubt a digital stage in this edition — but don’t let that throw you: Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings sounds very good indeed, especially in light of the original editions being somewhat compressed-sounding. While I have not heard those 1953 10-inch editions, the 1956 12-inch LP on Debut Records was pressed on less-than-ideal Styrene plastic (i.e., not vinyl), so it has its own unique sonority — if you can actually find a clean copy, that is. (More on that in a moment.) Regardless, this new edition sounds fuller and clearer than any version I’ve heard to date.


I have long only owned reissues of this concert, including an SACD and the 2LP Prestige Records 2LP edition (the latter version being titled The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever). However, a magical thing happened two years ago, as I found an original 1956-era pressing on Mingus’ original Debut Records label in near-perfect condition while shopping at Amoeba Music — and it was a DJ copy to boot! This was the only time I’d ever even seen an original, so I grabbed it — for just $30! — and have been enjoying it ever since.

As to this new 3LP Craft collection, it was pressed on 180g vinyl at MPO in France (one of the oldest pressing plants in Europe, apparently). All three LPs in my copy of Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings are dark, quiet, and well-centered, so all the details that are important to us audiophiles check out just fine.

As far as this monaural recording’s sound quality goes, across the set, it ranges from pretty excellent to pretty average. That excellent designation is kind of amazing to quantify, all things considered, especially given the tempestuous relations of the performers themselves, and a reportedly drunk audio engineer working that evening who ultimately raised Mingus’ ire.


The Craft Hot House set contains three different recordings. First up on Disc One is the original recording of The Quartet as it went down that fated evening — which, as noted earlier, did not fully capture Mingus’ bass (due to the aforementioned allegedly inebriated engineer). Disc Two includes a trio performance of Mingus with Roach supporting Powell (which curiously sounds very different than the group session), while Disc Three features Mingus’ updated tape with his overdubbed bass parts.

Remember that, save for Les Paul’s home studio, the notion of sound-on-sound and multichannel recording wasn’t yet a standard in most studios back in 1953-55. The original show recording was likely re-recorded onto a fresh tape as Mingus played his new parts along with it, taking the master down a generation.

One of the things I find fascinating about the music in Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings is that, despite the fact it has been released in a multitude of formats over the years, it apparently wasn’t always so readily available. In the liner notes for the 1973 2LP reissue on Prestige Records — The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever — the writer explains that these recordings were pretty much unavailable to most people until Fantasy Records reissued the concert (Mingus’ version) around 1960. And, from then until the 1973 edition, there hadn’t been other options available. That’s a long time for fans to wait to hear performances many consider to be, like the title says, the greatest jazz concert ever!


Now, having Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings in my collection, I will likely be purging the 1960 and 1973 versions as I no longer need them, but I’ll still always cherish the 1956 Debut Records original pressing. Maybe someday, I’ll get lucky and find those 10-inch versions — but, to date, I have never seen any of them out in the wilds of collecting.

As for this new Craft Recordings edition, Hot House sounds very good, and certainly better than the 1973 edition that has some audible tape wrinkles or dropouts that seem to have been fixed up on the new edition. I do like the overall feel of this music on vinyl better than on the SACD, which always felt a bit on the bright side to my tastes.


Frankly, this new 3LP edition is probably (arguably) even better than the original pressing because the vinyl quality is so much higher than the styrene plastic Mingus pressed his original run on. The fact is, Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings is an important document for jazz music enthusiasts, both present and future. Go into it expecting some amazing performances — and don’t dwell too much on the fidelity per se. I gave the Sound a 7 rating, which is no way a reflection on the mastering or the quality of the pressings themselves — it is just the reality of this being a 70-year-old imperfect, but wonderful, monaural concert recording.

As for the Music, it is an 11 all the way. Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings is all about the music-magic that The Quintet — Gillespie, Parker, Mingus, Powell, and Roach — channeled and released onstage that evening. My listening suggestion is to just relax, float downstream, and bask in the glow of five musical legends creating timeless music for the ages before your very ears.

(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.)

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180g 3LP (Craft Recordings)

Disc One / Without Bass Overdubs

Side A
1. Perdido
2. Salt Peanuts
3. All The Things You Are / 52nd Street Theme

Side B
1. Wee (Allen’s Alley)
2. Hot House
3. A Night In Tunisia

Disc Two / Without Bass Overdubs

Side C
1. Drum Conversation
2. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
3. Embraceable You
4. Sure Thing

Side D
1. Cherokee
2. Hallelujah
3. Lullaby Of Birdland

Disc Three / With Bass Overdubs

Side E
1. Perdido
2. Salt Peanuts
3. All The Things You Are / 52nd Street Theme

Side F
1. Wee (Allen’s Alley)
2. Hot House
3. A Night In Tunisia


volvic's picture

Thanks for this, had no idea this was available, must pay more attention. Sadly sold out everywhere but did find a last copy from an eBay seller, so grabbed it. The late and very great Phil Schaap used to call this the greatest live jazz performance ever put on record, my wife thinks it’s Ellington at Newport, but I have to agree with Phil. In any event, I can’t wait to get it. Cheers Mark!

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