Charlie Parker: Five Classic Albums

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With jazz – lite and trite, near and drear, pretentious and tendentious – seemingly on the increase, the reissue of five “classic” Parker Verve albums (even in truncated form) is to be welcomed. Newcomers (if any exist) to his latter-day recordings as well as devotees (still alive) will find much to enjoy in this Avid compilation – which finally has liner notes visible to the naked or bespectacled eye.

Bird & Diz is the least satisfactory of the sessions, largely because of the clumsily unsympathetic and robotic drumming of Buddy Rich, but also because of the unoriginality of much of the material. Bloomdido and Mohawk, listed as Parker compositions, employ the chord patterns of I Got Rhythm, while Leap Frog uses the changes of Stompin’ At The Savoy. That said, Diz and Bird, in what was to be their last studio recording together, and the only time they recorded with Monk are well-suited. André Hodeir was one of the few critics who found much to admire in these performances, notably Bloomdido and An Oscar For Treadwell, where the principals displayed “a perfect musical coherence”. On the evidence presented, Norman Granz’s assertion that Monk was “a lesser light in modern jazz” and that Rich was “a very swinging drummer,” and together with Curly Russell formed “an ideal rhythm section” is a moot point.

Charlie Parker Big Band is altogether more rewarding, with 10 tracks (later increased to 24 – including alternate takes on a 1999 reissue) with Bird obviously enjoying the “swing” arrangements by Joe Lipman. He emotes brilliantly on Temptation, followed by a romantic string-accompanied version of Autumn In New York. Other highlights are a blistering Lover and a no-holds-barred Night And Day – the trombone soloist has to be Bill Harris. Reportedly, Bird told Lipman that he wanted a faster version of this number, and suggested an extra chorus by Oscar Peterson.

Charlie Parker With Strings, one of his favourite albums, received mixed reviews when it was first issued. Buddy Rich plays with more delicacy and restraint than on the Bird And Diz disc, while Parker is audibly inspired by the impressive string and horn sections to deliver some of his most moving performances. April In Paris amply demonstrates the point. Just Friends was to become one of Bird’s most famous performances, but I’ll Remember April runs it a close second.

Charlie Parker Quartet (originally entitled Now’s The Time), has Bird at his lyrical best – try the title track (with distinct shades of The Hucklebuck) and/or I Remember You. Al Haig or Hank Jones, Percy Heath and Teddy Kotick constitute ideal rhythmic support. A delight from start to finish, this is one of the best of Bird’s Verve recordings.

Charlie Parker Quintet Plays Cole Porter also deserves that accolade. Curiously, although it has the alternate takes of Kick Out Of You, Love For Sale, and I Love Paris, it doesn’t include Begin The Beguine, Night And Day, Thing Called Love or Still Of The Night, which were included on the Complete Verve Recordings and also a separate CD – with astute notes by Gary Giddins. It was recorded only three months before his death, and despite some hesitations and pitch problems it is quite remarkable. What comes through is his feeling for the material. Pianist Walter Bishop, guitarists Jerome Darr and Billy Bauer, bassist Teddy Kotick and drummers Roy Haynes and Art Taylor provide unobtrusive but sympathetic support. I Love Paris, is in Garry Giddins’ verdict “an ingenious juxtaposition of minor and major keys [which] gives this song its intriguing character”; Bird “hears the blues in Porter’s mournful cadences and mines them for all they’re worth”. The two alternate takes verify his assertion. Strongly recommended.

Discography
CD1: [Charlie Parker: Bird And Diz] (1) Bloomdido; Melancholy Baby; Relaxing With Lee; Passport; Leap Frog; An Oscar For Treadwell; Mohawk; Visa; [Charlie Parker Big Band] (2) Temptation; Autumn In New York; Lover; Stella By Starlight; Dancing In The Dark; Night And Day; I Can’t Get Started; What Is This Thing Called Love; Almost Like Being in Love; Laura [Charlie Parker With Strings] (3) April In Paris; Summertime; If I Should Lose You; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Everything Happens To Me; Just Friends; They Can’t Take That Away From Me (78.02)
CD2: You Came Along From Out Of Nowhere; East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon); Easy To Love; I’m In The Mood For Love; I’ll Remember April; [Charlie Parker Quartet] (4) Now’s The Time; I Remember You; Confirmation; Chi Chi; The Song Is You; Laird Baird; Kim; Cosmic Rays; [Charlie Parker Quintet-Plays Cole Porter] (5) I Get A Kick Out Of You; I Get A Kick Out Of You (alt); Just One Of Those Things; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Love For Sale; Love For Sale (alt); I Love Paris; I Love Paris (alt) (80.59)

Parker (as) on all tracks with:
(1) Dizzy Gillespie (t); Thelonious Monk (p); Curly Russell (b); Buddy Rich (d). NYC, 4 & 8 March, 2 & 5 May 1949, 6 June 1950.
(2) personnel including Flip Philips (ts); Al Porcino (t); Bill Harris (tb); Oscar Peterson (p); Ray Brown (b); Buddy Rich, Don Lamond (d). NYC, 5 July 1950, 22 January; 25 March 1952.
(3) personnel including Ray Brown (b); Buddy Rich (d); Mitch Miller (engh); Jimmy Carroll (arr, cond). NYC, 30 November 1949, late summer 1950.
(4) Al Haig, Hank Jones (p); Percy Heath, Teddy Kotick (b); Max Roach (d); NYC, 30 July 1953; 30 December 1952.
(5) Walter Bishop, Jerome Darr, Billy Bauer (g); Teddy Kotick (b); Roy Haynes, Art Taylor (d). NYC, 31 March 1954; 10 December 1954.
Avid Jazz AMSC13644