By P. Christopher Dowd
To approach the aesthetic history of jazz would unequivocally lead to Charlie "Bird Parker. With the majority of musicians, we speak of their contributions to the musical lexicon in terms of what they added to the foundation. In the case of Charlie Parker, he didn't just contribute, he pulverized all that preceded him with his blinding-speed rhythm, phrasing and soloing. Parker, along with fellow luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell ushered in the age of bebop in the '40s, arguably the first true modernists of American music. And except for a few notable cases, jazz and the mainstream would never dine at the same table again.
Parker, the scope of exhaustive analysis both musically and biographically, has had no shortage of anthologies since his death at age 34 in 1955. As the case with any legendary artist, some are more valued than others in terms of track selection, remastering, liner notes, etc. Two recently released compilations from Savoy and Definitive Records immediately prove their worth to both collectors and casual fans alike.
The Genius of Charlie Parker
The Savoy reissue The Genius of Charlie Parker expands upon the original release (sans some cuts featuring Slim Gaillard) with a variety of combos including the Charlie Parker All-Stars, Quintet, Sextet, Septet and Reboppers. The 35 songs, recorded for Dial and Savoy, covering both studio and live performances, were restored, remastered, re-equalized and transferred from the original master tapes and acetates. This two-disc set is beautifully packaged and contains informative liner notes culled from Savoy's Charlie Parker box set series, providing a textual background to such classics as "KoKo , "Ornithology , "Bird of Paradise , "Scrapple from the Apple , "Salt Peanuts and the standout "Parker's Mood .
Charlie Parker/Miles Davis
Sharing some crossover terrain with Genius, 14 tracks to be exact, is Charlie Parker and Miles Davis' Blue Bird: Legendary Savoy Sessions. A compilation of six sessions from 1945-1948 by the Charlie Parker Quintet, featuring Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and John Lewis on 23 legendary cuts.
Right off the bat on "Billie's Bounce the young Miles asserts his place within the group warming up to the dynamic runs of "Klaunstance with a call and response with Bird. On "Bird Gets the Worm Miles is bursting at the seams, matching Bird in intensity and notes. But it wouldn't be Parker's quintet without his signature playing on "Donna Lee , "Now's the Time and "Blue Bird . "Meandering has Dizzy Gillespie on a rare turn at the piano and "Donna Lee foreshadows the genius of Bud Powell's own combos. The significance of these sessions is palpable, a testament and insight to that rare historical glimpse of a revolutionary art form.
The Genius of Charlie Parker
Tracks: 1 52nd Street Theme [live] Monk 5:23; 2 Tiny's Tempo Grimes 2:55; 3 Shaw 'Nuff Gillespie, Parker 3:03; 4 Hot House [live] Dameron 4:26; 5 Billie's Bounce Parker 3:09; 6 Now's the Time Parker 3:17; 8 Anthropology [live] Gillespie, Parker 5:17; 9 Yardbird Suite Parker 2:55; 11 A Night in Tunisia Gillespie, Paparelli 3:05; 12 Chasin' the Bird [live] Parker 4:27; 13 Relaxin' at Camarillo Parker 3:02; 14 Cheers McGhee 3:00; 15 Cheryl [live] Parker 3:49; 16 Buzzy Parker 2:32; 17 Sippin' at Bell's Davis 2:23; 18 Little Willie Leaps [live] Davis 3:52; 19 Dexterity Parker 2:59; 20 The Hymn Parker 2:28; 21 Bird of Paradise Parker 3:11; 22 Embraceable You [Take A] Gershwin, Gershwin 3:42; 23 East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) [live] Bowman 4:39; 24 Scrapple from the Apple Parker 2:56; 25 Out of Nowhere Green, Heyman 3:49; 26 Quasimado Parker 2:59; 27 Crazeology Harris 3:03; 28 Bird Gets the Worm Parker 2:37; 29 Barbados [live] Parker 3:52; 30 Au-Leu-Cha Parker 2:55; 31 Constellation Parker 2:29; 32 Parker's Mood [Take 2] Parker 3:25; 33 Perhaps Parker 2:34; 34 Steeplechase Parker 3:06; 35 Salt Peanuts [live] Clarke, Gillespie 3:44
Personnel: Nelson Boyd: Bass; Jimmy Butts: Bass; Red Callender: Bass; Big Sid Catlett: Drums; Tadd Dameron: Piano; Miles Davis: Trumpet; Kenny Dorham: Trumpet; Arv Garrison: Guitar; Dizzy Gillespie: Trumpet; Wardell Gray: Sax (Tenor); Tiny Grimes: Guitar; Al Haig: Piano; Joe Harris: Drums; Clyde Hart: Piano; Milt Jackson: Vibraphone; J.J. Johnson: Trombone; Duke Jordan: Piano; Barney Kessel: Guitar; Don Lamond: Drums; John Richard Lewis: Piano; Dodo Marmarosa: Piano; Howard McGhee: Trumpet; Vic McMillan: Bass; Charlie Parker: Sax (Alto); Roy Porter: Drums; Tommy Potter: Bass; Bud Powell: Piano; Max Roach: Drums; Curly Russell: Bass; Lucky Thompson: Trombone, Sax (Tenor); Argonne Thornton: Piano; Harold West: Drums
Tracks: 1 Billie's Bounce Parker 3:11; 2 Now's the Time Parker 3:16; 3 Meandering Parker 3:17; 4 Donna Lee Parker 2:32; 5 Chasin' the Bird Parker 2:44; 6 Cheryl Parker 2:58; 7 Buzzy Parker 2:28; 8 Milestones Davis 2:35; 9 Little Willie Leaps Davis 2:50; 10 Half Nelson Davis 2:42; 11 Sippin' at Bells Davis 2:21; 12 Another Hair Do Parker 2:38; 13 Bluebird Parker 2:50; 14 Klaunstance Parker 2:45; 15 Bird Gets the Worm Parker 2:35; 16 Barbados Parker 2:29; 17 Ah-Leu-Cha Parker 2:54; 18 Constellation Parker 2:27; 19 Parker's Mood Parker 3:03; 20 Perhaps Parker 2:34; 21 Marmaduke Parker 2:43; 22 Steeplechase Parker 3:04; 23 Merry-Go-Round Parker 2:27
Personnel: Miles Davis: Trumpet; Charlie Parker: Alto, Tenor Sax