Charlie Parker: At Jirayr Zorthian's Ranch, July 14, 1952 (2006)
Jirayr Zorthian was a painter and sculptor whose large ranch was known for wild parties attended by hordes of intellectuals, artists and naked women frolicking about. Thus it's easy to see why Charlie Parker wound up there in 1952. This concert captures a moment that is mentioned in every serious Parker discography, but is only available now for the first time.
This session was not a formal concert performance, but rather an informal musical party, and thus featured plenty of relaxed improvisation and witty musical quotes. These are also the only existing recordings of Bird playing with tenor saxophonist Don Wilkerson, who would later make a name for himself on the Blue Note label, and alto saxophonist Frank Morgan. Chet Baker also makes an appearance on one track (and again, no surprise to see him there). The various combinations of musicians run through the usual suspects, like "Au Privave, "Scrapple From the Apple and "A Night in Tunisia, all for a crowd that was probably too drunk or stoned to care much about what was going on (although they seem quite invigorated by a strip tease performed during "Embraceable You ).
As wonderful as it is to have unreleased Parker material available, these recordings are about as amateur as it gets. The producers acknowledge the limitations of the source material and claim that the performances make up for it, but I found them close to unlistenable. The piano and bass are inaudible, and Parker barely makes it through the crackle and noise. True, Parker seems in good form, but it seems unlikely that anyone would check out this CD for other than mild curiosity or scholarly reasons.
No doubt Parkerophiles will snatch up these recordings, which offer a rare glimpse of a true master in about as informal a setting as one can get short of practice tapes. The rest of us can listen to the classic material already available and save ourselves the ear strain.
Track Listing: Night in Tunisia; Ornithology; Embraceable You; Hot House; Scrapple from the Apple; Cool Blues; Dixie/Yankee Doodle March/I Got Rhythm; Scrapple from the Apple No. 2; Privave/Dance of the Indifels.
Personnel: Charlie Parker, Frank Morgan: alto saxophone; Don Wilkerson: tenor saxophone; Amos Trice: piano; Dave Bryant: bass; Lawrence Marable: drums; Chet Baker: trumpet.