Sixty-five years ago in 1949, as winter was turning to Spring, the eighth national tour of Jazz At The Philharmonic began at Carnegie Hall; things were looking promising for this year’s concerts, despite the disappointments of the previous year where audience numbers were down. Concert organiser Norman Granz’s had managed to secure Ella Fitzgerald as the headliner for the spring tour; a tour on which his payroll was $9,100 per week excluding Ella – $1000 more than any previous tour.
To secure Ella’s participation, Granz had negotiated long and hard with her agent Tim Gale, and he paid her much more than anyone else on the tour, paying per appearance rather than a weekly wage like all the other musicians. Even when pianist Hank Jones went down with flu as the tour reached Chicago, Ella just went on with bass and drums. Not that everything was a positive. Down Beat in particular was critical of Ella’s ‘crummy’ selection of songs; Granz knew it to be true and it marked the start of a very long and sometimes painful process to take Ella in a completely new direction. The brilliant pianist, Bud Powell was another new addition to the shows; Powell had just began recording for Clef and his first album was the aptly named Bud Powell – Jazz Giant; an album that Verve later reissued as The Genius of Bud Powell (1956).
Besides Ella and Bud Powell the tour featured, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, drummer Shelly Manne (drums) on his first JATP, Fats Navarro, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Criss, Flip Phillips, Tommy Turk, Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich.
To coincide with the tour Granz released the 78rpm album Jazz at the Philharmonic volume 9, the previous volume had just registered sales of 100,000 copies, which was a considerable number for a jazz album.