Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker: Bird in Time 1940-1947

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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The music and interviews... offer a vivid commentary to the sessions that brings Bird's genius to life sixty years after he streaked across an unsuspecting America.
Charlie Parker

Bird in Time 1940-1947—Selected Recordings and Rare Interviews



Let us now praise a famous ghost... embracing the spirit of Charlie Bird Parker.

They are like feathers fluttering down from a spirit up above. Bird feathers. I make haste to collect them as the settle around me forming words and music...a complete picture of the epiphany that came to some in an age when few dared to break the established mould. Bird feathers that flutter down in a groove yard. All that's left of a genius at the center of a storm, on an evangelical mission... His music that shook the world out of its stultifying reverie and brought it back to life again. Songs and memories in the key of life... of Charlie "Bird" Parker.

The most telling aspect of this record Bird in Time 1940—1947—Selected Recordings and Rare Interviews (ESP-Disk, 2008) appears in the first few lines of researcher-compiler-producer Michael D. Anderson's notes in Booklet-1. Here he suggests that he feels "obligated" to "dispel the myth" that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie solely created Modern Jazz or Bebop in the mid-1940s. The radical statement itself begs the observed aside, and a series of rhetorical questions: The capitalized Modern Jazz and Bebop? Proper nouns? And why not? This music in question, this is prototypically referential music that we are talking about and listening to. Moreover it is music that is representative of a unique entity and is used to denote a particular thing without regard to any descriptive meaning the word or phrase may have.

Anderson also states something that few listeners and critics may be willing to accept because it's easier to "accept" and not to "dispel" a myth. That Monk, Bird and Dizzy were the greatest evangelists of Modern Jazz and Bebop is a historical fact. And that is exactly what this record sets out to actually do. To recognize the singular, all-important contribution that Bird has made to Modern Jazz and Bebop—and one could almost certainly say to Modern Music as well—but then the addition of Ellington, Armstrong, Mingus and a few others would also have to be added to the pantheon of "creators" and "evangelists".

The fact is this is not the avowed intention of this remarkable 4-CD set. Rather it is to show the remarkable development of the most important aspect of modern music—perhaps (and here it is also necessary to mention Ira Gitler's emphatic tone, who states in the introduction to The Masters of Bebop—A Listener's Guide (Da Capo Press, 1966 and reprinted in 2001) that Bebop is the only modern development in the (jazz) music of our time). And it is also, lest anyone is apt to jump up in protest, to show through historic interviews and rare music recordings—that have been placed in a thoughtful chronology to dispel and emphasize the importance of Charlie "Bird" Parker in the development of this "Modern Jazz."

So it is appropriate for Anderson to begin his notes with a remarkable genealogy—a sort of Book of Genesis—that music historians so love to write that accurately records the historical ancestors not only of this Bebop music, but also specifically of Bird and the other two members of his triumvirate. This time the term used to describe anyone of any significance who has come excel in the era before Bebop is "Pre-modernists". Some of the best known, are John Kirby, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge and Don Byas. They provided—as Anderson suggests—the foundation of Bebop and showcased its finest proponents. And these (proponents in turn) brought the music vibrantly alive. They did so by pulling hard at the elasticity of the music so loved that it twisted and turned into an interminably evolving vortex that, in turn, begat a new dialect in which Monk, Bird and Dizzy sang in the perfect idiom and therefore created the musical environment for "Bebop".

Discs 1, especially, is a showcase for Bird's music, so Monk and Dizzy's music is "deliberately" not represented. But once again, to hear the near-fully formed voice of Bird as early as in 1940 is truly remarkable. Remember that this is even before the Los Angeles recordings of February 1947 especially the triumphant gigs at Hi De Ho, in March, 1947, the late 1947 gig at The Three Deuces and another at The Onyx on 52nd Street in July 1948—The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker (Mosaic, 1990).

So it is mind-expanding to hear what Anderson describes as woodshedding in a 1936 or 1937 recording of "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Body and Soul" The dry rhythmic, vibrato-less and sliding elegance of Bird's saxophone playing is unmistakable and unforgettable as well. And it is all melded into that dynamic bluesy swing that came to be dubbed the Kansas City Swing that Jay McShann, Bird's first major band leader made famous all over the world. Bird began to "listen" to the "Pre-Modernists". Lester Young has always been cited as a major influence on Bird, but, according to Bird himself, a very early mentor and important influence was the alto saxophonist Henry "Buster" Smith, whose robust tone and angular changes attracted Bird as well as major band leaders including Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Earl Hines. Consequently Bird pays rich tribute to Buster Smith in Anderson's interview with the alto saxophonist at the very opening of Disc 1.

Bird's sojourn with the Jay McShann Band was a legendary school of learning for both the leader and his young ward as well. For at least three years between 1939 and 1942 Bird blew chorus after brilliant chorus for McShann and these have been carefully restored in the first few tracks of Disc 1. It was a struggle for Bird to come to terms with the fact that he was not able to play the sounds exactly as they come to him in his head. And despite this and the antagonistic response to his "experimental" sound, McShann persisted with Bird, who never failed to "make it new". McShann recorded some classic tracks during that time and these included Bird's ravishing solos on "Oh Lady Be Good," "Body and Soul" and several exquisite tracks recorded during a radio broadcast from the Savoy Ballroom—including "I Got It Bad" with Al Hibbler on vocals and "Swingmatism" In early 1942, Bird also found favor in NY, at Monroe's Uptown House. He describes how he heard Oran Page, Dizzy, Charlie Shavers and trumpeters, Vic Coulsen and George Treadwell or the first time. On "Cherokee," recorded for the first time during that year, Bird's signature dry-mouthed dazzling runs that came to be recognized as the Bebop sound can be heard for the first time.

In late-1942, Bird also recorded his first tracks as a leader, at Vic Damon Studios. The tracks included on Disc 1 feature Efferage Ware on guitar. Although the tracks appear a tad slow in the absolute modern context, they are unmistakably Bird and the formation of genius is clearly documented in the great leaps of harmonic intensity throughout—especially on "Cherokee" and "Body and Soul". Disc 1 also features some unsolicited critical analysis from such luminaries and peers as Max Roach.

On Disc 2 the development of Bird's legendary tone solidifies, especially on tracks such as the Bob Redcross recordings, "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "I Got Rhythm," a track which features changes that so attracted Bird that he began cutting the sequences up and remaking them in various combinations, in songs that he later wrote himself. This Disc is loaded with history especially in the work that Bird recorded in 1943—another favorite song, "Embraceable You," which featured Hazel Scott on piano. But the most remarkable tracks here are a series of performances that include 1945 recordings with Cootie William's Band—"Don't Blame Me," and "Perdido" among others and of course the galvanic track with Rubberlegs Williams, "That's The Blues" and of course "Mop Mop" with Coleman Hawkins and the almost mystical version of "Lover Come Back To Me" with Dizzy in a set that also included "Sweet Georgia Brown" Bebop, it seems had been given birth and the year was 1945.

Discs 3 and 4 brings the Bird and Modernist saga to full fruition across America, from the Hi-De-Ho, Los Angeles gigs and recordings to various live and studio sessions in New York. There are a number of Bird milestones here. In November, for instance, he began a relationship with Savoy Records; one that produced "Warming Up A Riff," a rehearsal recording that was based on the chord changes of an older Bird favorite, "Cherokee". Bird is at his inventive best here—composing with urgency and unbridled genius. "Koko," ""Now Is The Time" and "Billie's Bounce".

The first of these, Disc 3 documents, through a selection of interviews, the flight of Bird, Dizzy and the birth of the new music. Pianist Teddy Edwards, vibraphonist Milt Jackson and drummer Roy Porter put the New Music in the context of the laid back environment of the West Coast. Porter also discusses the final chapter in Bird's shared existence—before he joined hands with Dizzy—with Howard McGhee. But perhaps the most vivid backdrop to the advent of this joyfully strident idiom that came to be called Bebop comes from Producer Anderson, who places the music in the context of the villainous racial hatred of the day. It is possible to better understand the idiom and also even dance to the music that celebrates—albeit surreptitiously—the African-American Freedom from such discrimination. The Jubilee sessions of December 29, 1945 sound brighter and more electrifying. "Groovin' High," "Shaw 'Nuff" and "Salt Peanuts" are positively ebullient now. So also are the sparkling 1946 tracks from the early Dial sessions: "Bebop," "Lover Man" and "Max Is Makin' Wax". The interviews with Porter and Edwards put much of the excitement of the music and Bird's own erratic behavior and ultimate nervous breakdown in perspective. The disc does, however, end with Bird's triumphant return from Camarillo with five spectacular tracks.

Disc 4 uncovers rare and bright gems from historic Bird recordings. The final Dial sessions of 1947 feature the velvet baritone of Earl Coleman, who also provides some vivid memories of Bird's incarceration at Camarillo and how touching incites into Howard McGhee, who appears to have "been there" for the saxophonist when the chips were down. The tracks, "This Is Always," and "Dark Shadows" a svelte and Bird is in fine form—tender as he caresses each note of his solos, as they appear seemingly suspended in space and time. And then there are the Hi-De-Ho sessions with Howard McGhee are perhaps the most remarkable for they complement one of the most important Bird recordings in decades: the Dean Benedetti recordings. Benedetti had already captured the Los Angeles sessions, but his recordings only featured Bird's solos. Now Bird in Time captures, for the first time, the rare and complete performance by the full band, a recording that includes Bird, Hampton Hawes on piano, McGhee on trumpet, Addison Farmer on bass and Roy Porter on drums. McGhee and Porter's comments about the gig and the reaction from West Coasters are priceless.

This disc and ultimately the project as well, ends with the memorable sessions of all: These are from two radio show broadcasts from New York's Mutual Studios and hosted by Larry Dorn. These "Bands for Bonds" programs feature Bird with Barry Ulanov's All-Star band, including one of the first performances of "Koko," "Donna Lee" and Monk's "52nd Street Theme". The all-star group brought together Dizzy and Bird, Ray Brown on bass, Lennie Tristano on piano, Billy Bauer on guitar, Max Roach on drum and an incomparable John LaPorta on clarinet. These staggering performances were almost a month apart and are memorable not only for the breathtaking work of Dizzy and Bird, but for also for the magnificent clarinet of LaPorta—probably the first ever music in the Bebop idiom to be played in that woody context. In the November performance, the second of the two, Fats Navarro replaces Dizzy and proceeds to simply blow his way into the heart of Bebop. Once again, the interviews bring vivid commentary to the sessions bringing Bird's genius and flight path to life sixty years after he streaked across an unsuspecting America.

But long after the last notes and hiss of the discs die out, one thing remains and that is the echo of that instantly recognizable and unmistakable voice of perhaps the most courageous innovator in the history of the classic music of the 20th Century: the soaring alto of Charlie "Bird" Parker. In putting these four discs together, Michael Anderson and ESP have performed a remarkable feat of seeking to archive the music of a great American.

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.

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.

Title: Charlie Parker: Bird in Time 1940-1947 | Year Released: 2009


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