Charlie Parker: Now's the Time

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In 1957, two years after Charlie Parker's death at age 34, Norman Granz's Verve label began releasing a series of albums called The Genius of Charlie Parker. They were eight, 12-inch versions of 10-inch albums issued on his Clef label in the early 1950s. The larger vinyl versions included alternate takes.

One of those albums was Now's the Time: The Quartet of Charlie Parker Vol. 3, which featured Parker in two different quartet settings. They are among his purest and most sterling recordings in the LP era. The 10-inch version had been called Charlie Parker and featured the artwork of David Stone Martin on the cover  

The first quartet was recorded in December 1952 and featured Parker (as), Hank Jones (p), Teddy Kotick (b) and Max Roach (d). They recorded The Song Is You; Laird Baird, named for Parker's son, Laird; Kim, named for his step-daughter; and Cosmic Rays.

The second quartet was recorded in July 1953 and included Charlie Parker (as), Al Haig (p), Percy Heath (b) and Max Roach (d). They recorded Chi Chi, I Remember You, Now's the Time and Confirmation.

Parker's playing is clear, strong and lyrical throughout, with fluid improvisation and rich blues. This is an ideal album to start you off listening to Bird again or, if you aren't overly familiar with why he's so special, to offer you polished examples of his genius. After all these years, Parker remains miraculous, both for his musical invention dubbed bebop and how he spins any song—originals and standards—into gold.

In the early 1970s, this 12-inch Granz series introduced me to Charlie Parker. To Granz's credit, the series remains the gold standard. The volumes, in order, were Night & Day, April in Paris, Now's the Time, Bird & Diz, Plays Cole Porter, Fiesta, Jazz Perennial and Swedish Schnapps. What I remember is how impossible Fiesta was to find at New York record stores.

JazzWax tracks: Here's I Remember You...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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