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Charlie Parker: Bird: Motion Picture Soundtrack

Jim Santella By

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They're Bird's alto saxophone solos that we hear all through the soundtrack. Not someone else. Charles McPherson was only added to three of the songs, as a member of the ensemble. Musical director Lennie Niehaus didn't play alto sax for the film. He taught several actors to play the instrument for their roles (with the sound removed). It's the stuff dreams are made of. Director Clint Eastwood's technical people started with valuable Charlie Parker recordings, subtracted all sounds except Parker's, limited the output to his solo work, and then invited contemporary jazz artists to provide accompaniment. It sure did work out well. The result is arguably the best recording Charlie Parker has ever issued.

Most of the tracks are up-tempo, including a delighted nightclub audience as a part of the scenery. And, isn't that the way it was with Parker? Everyone sat up and took notice. No one could keep still when the maestro performed. He was a pepper-upper who charged everyone around him with considerable energy.

Jon Faddis and McPherson kick off "Ko Ko" in ensemble, and Parker immediately takes the solo by force. He moves fast and furious. Faddis and Walter Davis, Jr. then turn out blazing solos to match. Undoubtedly, both were charged-up for the occasion, by Bird's remarkable solo. The ensemble finishes by trading around the room. It's vintage bebop.

Ballads, such as "April in Paris," provide a sensual affair. Niehaus enlisted a large string orchestra with oboe soloist, graceful harp, and such. Red Rodney and McPherson lead off "Now's the Time" in tandem with a deliberate tempo. Parker's lush solo leads to a refreshing trumpet solo, which is followed by another Davis piano solo, before the ensemble closes it out. It's bebop at its best. "Parker's Mood" closes out the soundtrack with an intimate quartet offering, enhanced by strings. This is Bird at his best.

Track Listing: Lester Leaps In; I Can't Believe That You're In Love; Laura; All Of Me; This Time the Dream's On Me; Ko Ko; Cool Blues; April in Paris; Now's the Time; Ornithology; Parker's Mood.

Personnel: Charlie Parker, Charles McPherson- alto saxophone; Jon Faddis, Red Rodney- trumpet; Charlie Shoemake- vibraphone; Monty Alexander, Barry Harris, Walter Davis, Jr.- piano; Ray Brown, Chuck Berghofer, Ron Carter- bass; John Guerin- drums.

Title: Bird: Motion Picture Soundtrack | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Columbia Records


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