All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Charlie Parker: The Washington Concerts


Sign in to view read count
Only Bird could make a plastic saxophone sound amazing.

Charlie Parker, the virtuoso alto saxophonist who started the bebop movement in jazz, gave a jaw-dropping performance with Joe Timer's orchestra at the Club Kavakos in Washington, D.C. in 1953.

Eight songs taken from that concert (where Parker played a plastic saxophone) were released in 1983 by Elektra Records. Recently, producer Bill Potts has unearthed two more D.C. concerts (both from the Howard Theater), and Blue Note Records has released selections from all three performances as The Washington Concerts.

Unfortunately, the sound quality is not the greatest in the world (it gets worse as the CD progresses). But when Parker steps up to the mic, you'll forget the sound imperfections and be swept away by his mind-numbing races up, down, around and through chords and scales.

What is more mind-numbing is the fact that Parker didn't have any music in front of him. A normal human being could probably adjust to the key changes within a few measures, but Bird's ear could pick it out and play in the new key within a few notes.

An audio interview with trumpeter Red Rodney gives some insight into Bird's genius.

On "These Foolish Things," the orchestra plays a gentle accompaniment while Parker appears to be playing every note in a particular chord, clocking in near the speed of light.

The eight songs with the orchestra blend big band swing with bebop, while the six unreleased tracks lean toward bebop.

Listeners get to hear Parker in a quartet setting that included Max Roach on drums. It's pure magic when Roach and Parker trade fours on "Ornithology," "Cool Blues" and the lightning-fast "Anthropology."

Tragically, it would be two years after the quartet's Howard Theater performance when Parker succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver. But thanks to the efforts of Potts, the jazz community has one more unbelievable performance from Parker.

Track Listing: Fine and Dandy, These Foolish Things, Light Green, Thou Swell, Willis, Don't Blame Me, Something to Remember You By/Blue Room, Roundhouse, Ornithology, Out of Nowhere, Cool Blues, Anthropology, Scrapple from the Apple, Medley: Out of Nowhere/Now's the Time, Red Rodney interview.

Personnel: Charlie Parker, alto sax with Joe Timer's Orchestra: Ed Leddy, Marky Markowitz, Charlie Walp, Bob Carey, trumpet, Earl Swope, Rob Swope, Dan Spiker, trombone, Jim Riley, alto sax, Jim Parker, Angelo Tompros, Ben Lary, tenor saxophones, Jack Nimitz, baritone sax, Jack Holliday, piano, Mart Oliver, bass, Joe Timer, drums.

for tracks 9-12: Parker, alto sax, Holliday, piano, Franklin Skeete, bass, Max Roach, drums.

for tracks 13-14: Parker, alto sax, Bill Shanahan, piano, Charlie Byrd, guitar, Mert Oliver, bass, Don Lamond, drums.

added on 14 only: Zoot Sims, tenor sax, Charlie Walp, trumpet, Kai Winding, Earl Swope, trombone.

Title: The Washington Concerts | Year Released: 2001


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Criss Cross CD/LP/Track Review
Criss Cross
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 22, 2018
Read So Far CD/LP/Track Review
So Far
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "Afro-Caribbean Mixtape" CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Dance of Time" CD/LP/Track Review Dance of Time
by Jeff Winbush
Published: May 26, 2017
Read "Stage 'N Studio" CD/LP/Track Review Stage 'N Studio
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Live from Stern Grove Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live from Stern Grove Festival
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "For Those About To Jazz / Rock We Salute You" CD/LP/Track Review For Those About To Jazz / Rock We Salute You
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "New Road: Iowa Memoirs" CD/LP/Track Review New Road: Iowa Memoirs
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 26, 2018