Charlie Parker: Bird in Time & Washington, DC, May 23, 1948
In the liner notes to Washington, DC, 1948, Ira Gitler reaffirms an assessment made in his 1966 classic The Masters of Bebop: "The period of 1947-48 was the zenith of Charlie Parker's career and the time of his greatest influence," due in part, he goes on to explain, to a "shift" in the New York "club scene" that produced venues like the Royal Roost, Bop City and the forerunner of Birdland. "It was a great showcase for him," continues Gitler. "As great as Bird was on studio recordings there was nothing like hearing him in person." Thrilling live performances are the only common thread between Bird in Time: 1940-1947 and Washington, DC, 1948, discs that help to bring a pivotal period in the saxophonist's career into focus.
Bird in Time 1940-1947, an exhaustive four-disc set of Parker's early recorded career, actually begins sometime in the late '30s. The date of the first-known recording of Parker that opens the set is lost to history, but the alto saxophone is undeniably that of the still-teenaged wunderkind. Over the crackle and hiss, Parker is heard running solo through the changes of "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Body & Soul," sounding assured, coy and already startlingly original. That originality would remain for the next 15 years, but the first tracks of Bird in Time offer fascinating glimpses of Parker borrowing liberally from his elders.
Soloing on "Body & Soul" on his first major gig with the Jay McShann band, Bird rarely emerges from the shadow of Coleman Hawkins, whose epochal version of the tune was barely a year old at the time. Parker weaves intricate lines in the emphatically swinging model of Hawkins and even quotes whole phrases from the tenor's classic solo. He is equally, if more intentionally, derivative on disc two, conjuring the easy-breezy tone and honking low C of Lester Young on a shaky recording made by jazz aficionado Bob Redcross. On tenor, the 23-year old Parker is barely recognizable, but in fine form, as is a much more characteristic Dizzy Gillespie.
The second half treads more familiar territory, while delving deeply into the darker side of Parker's legacy and the events that shaped a legend. Bird's sojourn and subsequent incarceration on the West Coast and his triumphant, but troubled return to New York are examined thoroughly and highlighted with thrilling live recordings. The rich history that is laid out in the 64-page liner notes is enhanced by rare interviews interspersed throughout the discs. The voices of Max Roach, Roy Porter, Milt Jackson, to name a few, brim with excitement years after the fact but insightful interviews and snippets of Parker's own voice, recalling his childhood and early professional years sheds fresh light on a lionized subject.
Bird in Time ends with a battle-of-the-bands-style set that was broadcast coast-to-coast on the radio that pitted the "modernists," Bird and Dizzy, against more traditional players. The legitimacy of bebop was a contentious issue in the late '40s as evinced in the broadcast's notoriety and the fact that a very similar concert was put on less than a year later at the behest of broadcaster Willis Conover. The resulting, previously unreleased, Washington, DC, 1948 comes no closer to deciding a clear winner, but results in some breathtaking performances. Parker and drummer Buddy Rich shine on each of the bebop takes, particularly on a blistering take of Parker's "Koko". The Dixielanders hold their own, particularly clarinetist Tony Parenti, whose lines draw boisterous laughter from Parker in the wings, causing a furious "Wild" Bill Davidson to call the show in mid-solo. The laughter was misinterpreted at the time, but Ira Gitler insists: "It was because Tony was knocking him out; enjoyment not derision."
Tracks and Personnel
Bird in Time 1940-1947
Tracks: CD1: Charlie Parker Interview; Honeysuckle Rose/Body and Soul; I Got Rhythm; I Found A New Baby; Body And Soul; Moten Swing; Coquette; Oh Lady Be Good; Wichita Blues; Honeysuckle Rose; Max Roach Interview; Cherokee; St. Louis Mood; I Got it Bad; I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles; Hootie Blues; Swingmatism; Theme: Love Don't Get You Nothin'; Cherokee; My Heart Tells Me; I Found A New Baby; Body And Soul #2. CD2: Sweet Georgia Brown; I Got Rhythm; Max Roach Interview; Boogie Woogie; Shoe Shine Swing; Body And Soul #3; Embraceable You; Charlie Parker Interview; That's The Blues; Charlie Parker Interview; Dream of You; 7th Avenue; Charlie Parker Speaks; Charlie Parker Speaks; Mop Mop (Excerpt); Theme: Round Midnight; 711 (Roll 'Em); Cootie Williams Speaks; Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me; Don't Blame Me; Perdido; Night Cap; Saturday Night; MC Announcement; Floogie Boo; MC Announcement; St. Louis Blues; Max Roach Speaks; Sweet Georgia Brown #2; Lover, Come Back To Me. CD3: Teddy Edwards Speaks; Intro; Shaw 'Nuff; MC Announcement; Groovin' High; MC Announcement; Dizzy Atmosphere; Milt Jackson Speaks; Salt Peanuts; Diggin' Diz; Roy Porter Speaks; Teddy Edwards Speaks; Howard McGhee Discusses His History; Jam Session; Tea For Two; Body And Soul; Cherokee; Teddy Edwards Speaks; Roy Porter Speaks; Roy Porter Speaks; Lover Man; Max Is Makin' Wax (aka Chance it); The Gypsy; Bebop; Roy Porter Speaks; Teddy Edwards Speaks; Howard McGhee Remembers Charlie Parker; Lullaby In Rhythm Pt. 1; Lullaby In Rhythm Pt. 2; Homecooking - 1 - Lullaby In Rhythm; Homecooking - 2 - Cherokee; Homecooking - 3 - I Got Rhythm. CD4: Earl Coleman Speaks; This Is Always; Dark Shadows; Earl Coleman Speaks; Roy Porter Speaks; Dee Dee's Dance; Roy Porter Speaks; Earl Coleman Speaks; Milt Jackson Speaks; Introduction - Ko Ko; Hot House; Fine And Dandy; Introduction to Koko; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; How Deep Is the Ocean; Tiger Rag; Theme: 52nd Street Theme; Intro: 52nd Street Theme; Donna Lee; Theme: Koko.
Personnel: Charlie Parker: alto saxophone; Jay McShann Band: various; Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Billy Eckstine: trumpet; Goon Gardener: guitar; Bob Redcross: drums; Hazel Scott: piano; Trummy Young: vocals, trombone; Don Byas: tenor saxophone; Mike Bryan: guitar; Al Hall: bass; Specs Powell: drums; Rubberleg Williams: vocals; Coleman Hawkins: tenor saxophone; Cootie Williams: trumpet; Edmond Hall: clarinet; Art Tatum: piano; Al Casey: guitar; "Big" Sid Catlett: drums; Al Haig: piano; Milt Jackson: vibes; Ray Brown: bass; Stan Levey: drums; Lucky Thompson: tenor saxophone; George Handy: piano; Arvin Garrison: guitar; Nat King Cole: piano; Oscar Moore: guitar; Johnny Miller: bass; Buddy Rich: drums; Benny Carter: alto saxophone; Willie Smith: alto saxophone; Howard McGhee: trumpet; Jimmy Bunn: piano; Bob Kesterson: bass; Roy Porter: drums; Shorty Rogers: trumpet; Mel Broiles: trumpet; Russ Freeman: piano; Arnold Fishkin: bass; Jimmy Pratt: drums; Hampton Hawes: piano; Addison Farmer: bass; Lennie Tristano: piano; John Laporta: clarinet; Billy Bauer: guitar; Max Roach: drums; Fats Navarro: trumpet; Tommy Porter: bass; Allen Eager: tenor saxophone; Sarah Vaughan: vocals; Earl Coleman: vocals.
Washington DC, 1948
Tracks: Tiny's Blues; Bernie's Tune; These Foolish Things; Scrapple From the Apple; Ornithology; Koko; C Jam Blues.
Personnel: Charlie Parker: alto sax; Earl Swope: trombone; Ben Lary; tenor sax; Charlie Walp: trumpet; Mert Oliver: bass; Sam Krupit: piano; Joe Theimer: drums; Buddy Rich: drums; Art Phipps: bass; Tony Parenti: clarinet; Wild Bill Davidson: cornet; Benny Morton: trombone.