Here’s something the jazz enthusiasts and collectors will love: a box set of the complete Charlie Parker 1940s Savoy records on four 10” LPs, facsimiles of the original 1940s issues. There is not much new to say about the music other than a reminder for anyone not familiar with it that this is one of the great, classic collections of modern jazz dating from the time that it first burst onto the scene. Savoy issued it in jumbled form, as record companies all seemed to do in those days, so there are three tracks from the famous 1945 session on volume 1 and two on volume 2. Interspersed throughout these and volumes 3 and 4 is the rest of the music from 1947-48.
Something that was added to the first LP issue and therefore is included in this collection is the first version of Confirmation, listed on the first LPs originally as Riff Warmer. This was recorded at Carnegie Hall with Bird and Diz, John Lewis, Al McKibbon and Joe Harris 29 September 1947. Subsequent reissues of this music did not include this live track. Parker is in his usual imperious form and takes an extended solo. This collection includes an informative booklet with notes by Neil Tesser and various photographs.
Full marks to the sound restoration folks at Craft for giving us newly restored and remastered audio on quality vinyl. The dark, somewhat hollow sound of the original recordings can’t be disguised but this is the first time it has been possible to hear the horns, piano, bass and drums all sounding clear and bright. Parker’s alto comes roaring out of the speakers with remarkable clarity, adding an extra dimension to the magic of this music.
It might have been chaos in the studio in November 1945 with a non-union piano player being turfed out, Dizzy having to play piano and rush across the studio floor to play trumpet next and Parker having to halt recording to take his alto out to a repair shop but somehow, that day, they produced master works like Koko, Billie’s Bounce, Now’s The Time and Thriving From A Riff. If the music sounded fresh and fully formed, it was. The reason it was so well played was that the musicians had suffered a recording ban for some time and had practised and almost perfected their new bebop in clubs for months.
It’s all here – that first session that produced Red Cross with Tiny Grimes’ band, Ah-Leu-Cha, Barbados, Cheryl, Buzzy, Parker on tenor sax and the rest. There’s also Chasin’ The Bird, a two-part invention in bop, dual themes in counterpoint – brand new to jazz although it had been done 500 years earlier in the baroque period. The four brightly coloured 10” LPs are done up in vivid blue, green, red and yellow covers and boxed. Could any jazz enthusiast or collector ask for anything more?
LP1: [Vol 1.] Now’s The Time; Donna Lee; Chasin’ The Bird; Red Cross; Koko; Warmin’ Up A Riff; Half Nelson; Sippin’ At Bells (21.13)
LP2: [Vol 2.] Billie’s Bounce; Cheryl; Milestones; Another Hair Do; Thriving From A Riff; Buzzy; Little Willie Leaps; Klaunstance (22.15)
LP3: [Vol 3.] Bluebird; Bird Gets The Worm; Parker’s Mood; Steeplechase; Perhaps; Tiny’s Tempo (16.53)
LP4: [Vol 4.] Constellation; Merry Go Round; Confirmation; Barbados; Ah-Leu-Cha; Marmaduke (15.59)
Collective personnel: Parker (as, ts); Dizzy Gillespie (t, p); Miles Davis (t); Bud Powell, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Sadik Hakim, Clyde Hart (p); Tiny Grimes (elg, v); Curly Russell, Tommy Potter, Nelson Boyd, Jimmy Butts (b); Max Roach, Doc West (d). NYC & Detroit, 26 November, 1945 – 24 September 1948.