Up in Dodo's Room

Dodo Marmarosa

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Up in Dodo's Room Review

by Cub Koda

If jazz ever had a little boy genius lost, it was Dodo Marmarosa. One part classical music boy wonder, one part Art Tatum reincarnated in a tiny, hawk-nosed Italian kid, Marmarosa burst onto the jazz scene in the mid-'40s, playing his way through a spate of legendary bands and recording configurations before heading back to his native Pittsburgh and self-imposed obscurity ever since. Much of his legendary status derives from the fact that he was Charlie Parker's piano man of choice on all his legendary Dial sessions and, indeed, the young Marmarosa could keep up with Bird when Miles Davis was still struggling. But the musical schizophrenia between his classical flights of fancy and his ties to both bop and the older style of Tatum is on open display in every one of these tracks. Kicking off with a pair of solo tracks ("Tea for Two" and "Deep Purple"), one can clearly hear that while he lacked some of Tatum's complexities, Marmarosa's instincts for phrasing and clear execution are on a par with his mentor. An outtake of "Ornithology" ("Bird Lore") with Dodo taking Bird's solo spot is next up, along with two alternates -- "Dialated Pupils" and the title cut -- from the Howard McGhee Sextet October 1946 session. But the real treasure trove is the two experimental solo takes of "Tone Paintings" and the master and alternate takes of the famous Dial trio session with Jackie Mills on drums and Harry Babasin on cello, a jazz first. Rounding up all the Dial material and privately recorded California works, this 18-track collection from 1946 and 1947 may well be the lasting epitaph of this talented bebop enigma.

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