505

Charlie Parker: Bird & Diz

By

Sign in to view read count
A 1950 recording released on a 10" LP in 1952, this session was conceived by Norman Granz as an opportunity to win for Charlie Parker a larger audience by showcasing him in the company of jazz stars playing "pretty tunes written by good songwriters. But with the exception of "Melancholy Baby" these are exactly the same kinds of bebop heads based on blues and "Rhythm" chord changes that Bird had recorded at Dial and Savoy. What distinguishes the album—apart from the singularly aggressive and competitive playing of Parker and Dizzy Gillespie on their last studio session—is the presence of Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich.

In the liner notes, James Patrick laments the neglect this session has received, then observes that though Parker, Gillespie, Monk, and bassist Curley Russell "play beautifully," Buddy Rich is "intrusive" and should have been replaced by a "Max Roach, Roy Haynes, or Kenny Clarke. Fine, then we have another recording practically indistinguishable from the earlier Dials and Savoys.

Rich may be less flowing and propulsive than the aforementioned bebop drummers, but he's definitely not intrusive. In fact, his swing-era symmetry and unfailing metronomic pulse bring a different dimension to the music and complement, above all, Monk's clockwork. It begs credulity that a musician like Monk would have hung around the studio if he didn't appreciate Rich's time. (In the early '70s at Chicago's Plugged Nickel I saw Monk fire a drummer in the middle of the second tune of the first set!) In fact, the "world's greatest drummer convincingly retains his title on Rich Versus Roach (Mercury, 1959), unless you fault him for machine-like precision.

Which is not to say a case can't be made against him. After 1942 Sinatra never recorded with him and brought along his own drummer, Irv Cottler, even when performing with the Rich band. Rich didn't have the big back-beat, the "deep stroke," that Sinatra derived his energy and swing from. And Rich could be so symmetrical and metronomic, so unforgiving, that much of the expressive fire generated by a soloist working with an Art Blakey or Elvin Jones would fail to ignite in a small Rich ensemble.

But just when you start to question the eminence of Rich, you rediscover all of those Verve recordings he made, not just with Diz and Bird but with Lester Young, Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. All of it so tasteful, supportive, swinging and even elegant. The man encompasses as much of the tradition as Miles Davis, though he rarely gets his due.

Whether Parker and Gillespie succeed because of or in spite of Rich matters less than the evidence on the record. Listen to all eleven takes of "Leap Frog." Even though seven are false starts, Bird and Diz are going after one another with such ferocity it's quite a challenge to determine what caused Bird to abort seven of the attempts so quickly, providing a fascinating glimpse of the creative process as practiced by two of the indisputable musical geniuses of the 20th century.


Track Listing: Bloomdido; My Melancholy Baby; Relaxin' With Lee; Leap Frog; An Oscar For Treadwell; Mohawk; My Melancholy Baby (alternative take); Relaxin' With Lee (alternative take); Leap Frog (3 alternative takes); An Oscar For Treadwell (alternative take); Mohawk (alternative take); Relaxin' With Lee (4 breakdown takes); Leap Frog (7 breakdown takes).

Personnel: Charlie Parker: alto saxophone; Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Thelonious Monk: piano; Curly Russell: bass; Buddy Rich: drums.

Title: Bird & Diz | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Verve Music Group


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "The Lovers card" CD/LP/Track Review The Lovers card
by James Nadal
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Imaga Mondo" CD/LP/Track Review Imaga Mondo
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 23, 2017
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 2, 2017
Read "Rediscovered Ellington" CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Backlog" CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 17, 2017
Read "Little Steps" CD/LP/Track Review Little Steps
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 20, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.