Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Charlie Parker Never Gets Old

Last week I lucked into a used copy of the Charlie Parker 8-disc set that combines everything he recorded for Savoy and Dial, along with a few stray other records (like one non-Dean Benedetti amatuer performance at a party). I own some of these sides on vinyl already - the double-album Savoy masters and a double set overview of the Dial sessions. I've always been on the lookout for the set of alternates of Savoy, which I think is called Encores. But really, I needed to have this set.

In this format.

Oddly enough, I feel like I know the Verve stuff better than I know these ones.Some of those later Verve sessions have career-defining tracks, like "Confirmation," "Kim" and "Au Privave." But he was really in his prime from 1944-48, the scope of this box set. Bebop was really starting to congeal at that point, and by presenting the sessions in chronological order - where the catalogs of both labels overlap - you get a good feel for how it happened.

And the booklet - surprise! - offers some really good insight into that. First, there's the whole existential angle: Part of the reason that Bird wrote these songs over the changes of popular songs had as much to do with his creativity as it had to do with the label guys not wanting to pay royalties to Gershwin and Jerome Kern for their songs. It also points out how his quintet with Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach sounded so solid because they actually spent a lot of time playing together, mostly on the road. Not to downplay the greatness of the "Relaxin' at Camarillo" session which features Dodo Mamarosa, but the quintet session feels like they are on a similar, if not the same, wavelength.

I still have about one and a half CDs to get through of the set and I'm still not tired of hearing Parker blow over blues changes or "I Got Rhythm" changes. I'm even digging all the alternate takes. He always has something new to say each time. I realize I'm not saying something that hasn't been said before umpteen times. But I think his unique creative sense, coupled with the format in which he recorded all of these songs - which was limited to about three minutes so it'd fit on a 78 - makes it easier to get into four takes of "Constellation," while four takes of Wynton Kelly playing a six-minute song on a Mosaic set feels excessive.

While reading the booklet I had to wonder if it's possible to trace Bird's life - at least down to a weekly level - between all of the professional recordings he made, coupled with all the non-legitimate ones too. There are so many albums of him playing with pick-up bands in different cities too. So it'd be interesting to try. I'm not ready to invest in the Benedetti set, though.

Unless it turns up used.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mike: I was curious if you might have an email, phone or at least address contact for Erik Kloss? I wanted to send him a copy of our monthly paper and to wish him a Happy Birthday (he was our selected "B-Day of the Month" so there's a brief write-up on him). And we'd of course love to feature him if he would be interested.

Thanks, and look forward to hearing back from you. Please email me direct (see below) as I rarely check Facebook.


Laurence Donohue-Greene
Managing Editor
The New York City Jazz Record