The Genius of

It is difficult to overestimate Charlie Parker’s impact on the music of our time and, as Max Roach put it so well:

“Bird was kind of like the sun, giving off the energy
we drew from him. We’re still drawing on it. His glass was
overflowing. In any musical situation, his ideas just
bounded out, and this inspired anyone who was around…
Bird contributed more and received less than anybody.”

Listen and remember Bird’s own words:

“it’s just music. It’s playing clean and looking for the pretty notes.”

The following notes are compiled from Savoy’s acclaimed Charlie Parker box set series, and have been written by some of the leading jazz producers, writers and historians, including Dick Katz (DK), Orrin Keepnews (OK), Bill Kirchner (BK), Dan Morgernstern (DM), James Patrick (JP) and Loren Schoenberg (LS). In some cases, the original text has been edited for clarity in the present context.

1. 52nd Street Theme (Thelonious Monk), with introduction by Symphony Sid 5:21
Charlie Parker Quintet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Tadd Dameron, piano; Curly Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, September 4, 1948.

52nd Street Theme starts underneath the opening announcement by radio host “Symphony Sid” Torin, and by the time he’s done, Parker is already a few bars into what is both a remarkably relaxed and complex solo. Parker’s relationship to the rhythm section was always provocative. Besides metrical displacement, there was always the prospect of the phrases themselves seeming to anticipate the tunes forms and chord structure. Here, Parker bridges the second eight bars of his solo into the channel with an eighth-noted phrase shorn of any tell-tale emphases and continues to the end in that fashion. The quotes that he scatters throughout almost every solo function as perfectly placed pieces of an improvised jigsaw puzzle made up of rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic elements, realizing whatever designs Parker had in his fertile mind. One value of this penchant for quotation is the way his references relate to a particular time in a particular place in Americana. It can be useful to view him in a wider perspective then just the jazz world and its immediate environs, and this is certainly made easier through the associations conjured up by his references to pop tunes, old blues melodies, and classical works.

Max Roach treads that fine line between anticipation and reaction which distinguishes the true accompanist. His playing on this track is a wonderful example of how to interact without being obtrusive, at the same time commenting on virtually every phrase that floats by. Each component of the drum set can be brought to the forefront to accentuate any of Roach’s sophisticated patterns. Moreover, there is the pure joy in swinging and pacing the solos that is unique to his playing at this time.

Miles Davis takes full advantage of the ambiguity that Parker introduces in his solo, beginning seamlessly at the mid-phrase point where Parker stops. He creates a masterpiece of improvisation. His bridges are particularly noteworthy: the first opening with a complex phrase that goes against the rhythmic grain, the third with a creative variation on one of Lester Young’s patented repeated-note riffs.

Composer-arranger Tadd Dameron was not much of a piano soloist, but could be a sparkling presence in the rhythm section. Like Davis, he goes right along with the displacements Parker has set in motion Equally important to the success of this performance are the free-ranging bass lines of Curly Russell. Known for his superior beat, Russell refrains from demarcating the obvious junctures of the song, enabling the others to create their own phrase borders without clashing with the usual outlines. Particularly engaging is the chorus allotted to the rhythm section; it occurs where the piano solo would ordinarily have been, a variation on the convention introduced be Count Basie. – LS

2. Tiny's Tempo (Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes) 2:53
Master number S-5710-3 / first issued on Savoy 526
Tiny Grimes Quintette: Charlie Parker, alto sax; Clyde Hart, piano; Tiny Grimes, guitar; Jimmy Butts, bass; Harold "Doc" West, drums. Produced by Buck Ram. Engineer: Doug Hawkins, at WOR Studios. September 15, 1944.

From Parker’s first appearance on Savoy, on a Tiny Grimes session, an instrumental that expresses the early enthusiasm of one 52nd Street leader by giving Bird the first solo on the first tune recorded. -- OK

3. Shaw ‘Nuff (Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker) 3:00
Dizzy Gillespie All Star Quintet: Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Curly Russell, bass; Sid Catlett, drums. New York City, May 11, 1945.

One would be tempted to describe Salt Peanuts as uniquely quintessential bebop were it not for Shaw ‘Nuff, which surely deserves exactly the same description. I still vividly remember the impact this record had on me at first hearing, on Symphony Sid’s radio program. This was well after it was new. I had come to the United States in the spring of 1946, just about a year after it was recorded, and must have heard it just a few weeks later. As luck would have it, I was able to buy it, among others, at four for a buck — at S. Klein’s department store on Union Square, where some distributor must have dumped a lot of modern jazz discs. Further uptown I’d have had to pay four times as much. Once I got it home, I soon wore it out, the unbelievable unison execution of Diz and Bird, the tempo, the solos (Bird is fabulous, but Dizzy tops him here), from that entrance through the fantastic fluidity, and the near-surrealistic imagination, and the sheer velocity. Dizzy recorded many spectacular solos, but forced to pick just one, this would be it for me. And don’t forget Haig, who manages to claim our attention in the midst of these fireworks, and Big Sid, who is peerless. (The title? Billy Shaw was Dizzy’s booking agent.) -- DM

4. Hot House (Tadd Dameron) 4:24
Charlie Parker Quintet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, December 12, 1948.

This evening is notable both for the performance of this early classic in the Parker/Gillespie canon and for drastically improved presence on the piano. The only surviving film footage of these two giants together is on a 1951 television appearance to accept some Down Beat awards; this was the number they played. And on both that occasion and this, Parker chooses the second eight bars of his solo to play blisteringly virtuosic runs of amazing audacity and precision. This one has notes that imply a tempo even faster than the explicitly stated double time, while never losing its melodic coherence. As Davis noted in his autobiography: “Bird often used to play in short hard bursts of breath. Hard as a madman. Later on Coltrane would try to play like that…Sometimes Max would find himself in between the beat and I wouldn’t know what the f__ Bird was doing because I wouldn’t have ever heard it before…When Bird played like that, it was like hearing music for the first time…Everything he played – when he was on and really playing – was terrifying and I was there every night!” And to quote Gillespie: “He’d be at a tempo way up there and he’d cram’ something. And that means triple the tempo that he was already playing…”

The synergy within this group is to be marveled at. Parker plays an eloquently simple, Armstrong-like phrase to end his first chorus, which then reappears twice in Haig’s comping behind Davis’ bridges. Is this deliberate? Most probably not. Coincidental? – conceivably. Subliminal? – quite possibly. But the bottom line is that it is there, revealing one of the many subtle threads that weave together performances like these. Equally intriguing and difficult to explain is the first eight bars of Parker’s second chorus, where he offers an exact paraphrase of a Lester Young solo that existed only on a then-unissued (indeed unknown) 1940 recording session with Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian. Whether this is prescience, memory or some combination of the two we’ll never know, but the similarities are striking. Parker’s penchant for Young is well documented, both during his early years as an apprentice listening eagerly at the back door of the Reno Club and in later years, when he would ask bandleader Jay McShann to schedule his breaks around Basie broadcasts. To cite Miles again: “Bird had five or six styles, all different. He had one like Lester Young, one Ben Webster, one Sonny Rollins used to call ‘pecking,’ when a horn player uses real short phrases…and at least three others I can’t describe right now.” -- LS

5. Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker) 3:07
S5850-5 / Sav 573

6. Now's the Time (Charlie Parker) 3:15
S5851-4 / Sav 573

7. KoKo (Charlie Parker) 2:53
S5853-2 / S 597
Charlie Parker's Reboppers: Miles Davis or Gillespie, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Argonne Thornton (Sadik Hakim), piano; Curly Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums. Davis does not play on KoKo; Gillespie plays trumpet (and is probably also on piano) on KoKo. November 25, 1945.

Billie’s Bounce
Bird’s first Savoy session as a leader begins with three takes of Billie’s Bounce. Take 1 has a good Parker solo, but the sloppy execution of the theme and Miles’ repetitious auxiliary note figures in his solo dictate another master. Take 2 is taken a shade slower, has a much cleaner theme and a top-notch solo from Bird – and strangely is cut off at midpoint. Take3, as is so familiar in parker studio recording sessions, has a good rendition of the theme and solid Miles, but a merely adequate solo from Bird who perhaps had momentarily lost interest during the process of working up a tight performance of the theme. At this point the proceeding temporarily shifted to an informal jam on Cherokee, which starts at the beginning of the last phrase of Parker’s first chorus, when the recording equipment apparently was turned on without announcement. Note Bird’s quotations of Irish Washerwoman and Cocktails for Two (and Dizzy’s appreciative laughter). This impromptu take would survive as a Parker “original” under the title Warming up a Riff. Another awkward short attempt at Billie’s Bounce follows before the tune is retired with a fifth take, which would become the original issue. -- JP

Now’s the Time
Now’s the Time presents much less trouble. Dizzy’s Monkish introduction begins all four takes. Take 4 is a classic with great Bird, good comping by Dizzy, and a first rate solo by Davis. Although this was not Miles’s first record date (he had appeared on Savoy sessions with Herbie Fields and Rubberlegs Williams), this is his debut as a soloist. Davis’ early works often has been misunderstood and unfairly criticized, usually on the basis that he was a technically inept follower of Dizzy Gillespie. This point of view is expressed in an April 22, 1946 Down Beat review of Savoy 573 (Billie’s Bounce/Now’s the Time):

“The trumpet man, whoever the misled kid is, plays Gillespie in the same
manner as a majority of the kids who copy their idol do – with most of the
faults, lack of order and meaning, the complete adherence to technical
acrobatics… This can be as harmful to jazz as Sammy Kaye.”

These sentiments are echoed nearly a decade later by John Mehegan in his notes for Savoy MG12079. He refers to Miles’ trumpet work as “lugubrious, unswinging, no ideas” – “tone certainly approaches the ludicrous” – “a put-on by Dizzy [?].” The truth of the matter is that Miles greatly admired trumpeter Freddy Webster and these early solos reflect not a failure to successfully imitate Dizzy, but rather Miles’ respect for Webster’s lush tone, lyricism, and economy of expression. -- JP

This was Parker’s first effort as a leader, and from all accounts it was a rather disheveled affair. Miles Davis plays on several other tracks, but by this time he had left the studio. Exactly how the piano work was divided between Dizzy Gillespie and the otherwise unsung Argonne Thornton has never been fully deciphered. But Bird’s re-interpretation of the Charlie Barnet Orchestra’s huge 1939 hit, Cherokee, was an amazing performance, accurately described by Parker expert James Patrick (in the booklet for the eight-CD complete set) as the “crowning achievement” of the day and “justifiably, one of his most revered records.” Above all, what it tells us is that right at the start of the period covered here, Bird was — regardless of any other shortcomings — musically fully matured and in command. -- OK

8. Anthropology (Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie) 5:13
Charlie Parker Septet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Lucky Thompson, trombone; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Milt Jackson, vibes; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, March 5, 1949.

In Anthropology, Parker ups the ante. The tempo is fast, and he gives us 96 bars of untrammeled invention. Much has been made of his pet phrases and the ingenuity with which he shuffled them around, as though this in some way diminished his status as creator. The feeling of true improvisation and discovery is tangible in every quarter note, and that is what elevates the content into great art. There are other outstanding performances here as well, not least from two musicians who were added to Parker’s band towards the end of his run at the Roost – a move containing more than a little irony. Back in December of 1945, when Dizzy Gillespie’s group, including an increasingly erratic Parker, had been booked into Billy Berg’s in Los Angeles, he had added Milt Jackson to insure there would always be five men on the bandstand, and subsequently hired yet another player, Lucky Thompson, to guarantee a second horn on the front line. Now the same two were joining Parker! One can only marvel at the sheer originality of Jackson in the face of such icons of his instrument as Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo. Even at this early stage in his career, Jackson’s mastery of rhythm was firmly in place, soon to be followed by refinement of touch and line. Thompson’s solo quotes directly from classic mid-40s Coleman Hawkins, which took some courage at a time when virtually every tenor man – even such macho players as Ike Quebec and Arnett Cobb – had large patches of Pres in his style.

These are truly magical moments, and they happen to be part of the last Parker broadcast from the Roost. It is indeed fortunate that they were recorded. -- LS

9. Yardbird Suite (Charlie Parker) 2:53
D1011-4 / Dial 1006

10. Ornithology (Charlie Parker - Benny Harris) 2:59

D1012-4 / Dial 1002

11. A Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie - Frank Paparelli) 3:03
D1013-5 / Dial 1002
Charlie Parker Septet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Lucky Thompson, tenor sax; Dodo Marmarosa, piano; Arvin Garrison, guitar (except on Moose the Mooche); Vic McMillan, bass; Roy Porter, drums. Radio Recorders; Hollywood; March 28, 1946.

Again, we find ourselves beginning at the top. This was Parker’s West Coast debut, his March 1946 first session for Ross Russell’s Dial Records, and there is no point in wasting time trying to determine which is the ‘best’ of this date. It is all memorable, brilliant performances of a repertoire that remains an important part of the language of jazz — here, a notable Parker composition, then the celebrated Ornithology, which he co-wrote with trumpeter Benny Harris, and finally one of Gillespie’s most memorable pieces. (The next scheduled Dial session was the unfortunate day that ended with a mental breakdown leading to six months in a California state hospital.) -- OK

12. Chasin’ the Bird (Charlie Parker) 4:25
Charlie Parker Quintet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, December 18, 1948
Here is the very last evidence of the working quintet with both Davis and Roach, and it is appropriately inspired. An unusual excursion into composed counterpoint by Parker, this is a relatively rare item in his discography — perhaps four or five recordings in addition to a single studio version. For the first time on these broadcasts, the Ben Webster influence on Parker surfaces. In the mid-40’s, Gillespie and many others made frequent use of phrases from the tenor saxophonist’s famous recording of Cotton Tail. This one can be heard as Parker wraps up each of his two choruses. Webster’s unique way of incorporating chromatic notes into diatonic progressions appears to have opened up specific vistas of phraseology to both Parker and Gillespie. And in terms of tracing influence, finding strands here and there of verbatim quotes and / or paraphrases speaks to the deeper issue of entire modes of musical rhetoric Parker masters on his way to his own startling originality. Another aspect of Webster’s musicality was his tremendous rhythmic sophistication. Pianist Dick Katz, who worked with Webster at about this time, has remarked on his fondness for laying his phrases in between the beats, in a way that would lose the rhythm section if their concentration faltered even slightly. Parker had not only heard Ben on records before coming to New York, but actually worked with him on 52nd Street. In my view, he is more significantly at the root of Parker’s development than the more frequently credited Coleman Hawkins. Further beneath the surface, there are also the influences of alto saxophonist Buster Smith (in whose band the teen-aged Parker played, and who was a personal and musical mentor) and tenor saxophonist Leon “Chu” Berry, after whom Parker named his first son. -- LS

13. Relaxin' at Camarillo (Charlie Parker) 3:00
D1071-C / Dial 1012

14. Cheers (Howard McGhee) 2:58
D1072-D / Dial 1013
Charlie Parker's New Stars: Howard McGhee, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Wardell Gray, tenor sax; Dodo Marmarosa, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar; Red Callender, bass; Don Lamond, drums. Engineer: Ben Jordan, at C.P. MacGregor Studios; Hollywood; February 26, 1947.

Relaxin’ at Camarillo
This Dial session had a quite distinguished young cast, including trumpeter Howard McGhee, guitarist Barney Kessel and pianist Dodo Marmarosa, and it began with a bow towards the institution at which Bird had done his recent unwinding. Bill Kirchner, a major annotator of Savoy’s eight-CD complete set, identifies this number as “one of Parker’s best lines, a textbook example of his rhythmic flexibility and unpredictability.” -- OK

The second tune recorded on the Relaxin’ session, Cheers receives a splendid performance by Bird and his cohorts, with great precision in the unisons and energetic solos built over a hybrid of the familiar I Got Rhythm and Honeysuckle Rose changes, especially from tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray and trumpeter Howard McGhee. -- JS

15. Cheryl (Charlie Parker) 3:48

Charlie Parker Septet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Lucky Thompson, tenor sax; Milt Jackson, vibes; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, March 5, 1949.

As Lester Young put it, necessity is a mother. Al Haig didn’t make it back to the bandstand until almost the end of the second tune of this set, and his absence occasioned some of the most spontaneous music of the entire broadcast series. Without the piano’s harmonic shadowing, the soloists’ lines are thrown into sharper relief. A number of possible resolutions of melodic phrases open up that would be contradicted by the “changes.” Roach, captured as well as he ever was on these broadcasts, utilizes his role as the only “comper” to reveal a new facet of his musicianship. Much of this centers on his creative use of the bass drum, off which he bounces an abundance of new rhythmic patterns – particularly behind Thompson – with more than a touch of musical humor. The three Parker choruses on Cheryl make for fascinating comparison with such other important saxophone/bass/drum trio moments as Sonny Rollins’ The Freedom Suite, recorded eight years later and accompanied by Roach and Oscar Pettiford, and Ornette Coleman’s DeeDee, from the “Golden Circle” recordings. -- LS

16. Buzzy (Charlie Parker) 2:30
S3423-5 / Sav 652
Charlie Parker All Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Bud Powell, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Harry Smith, at Harry Smith Studios; May 8, 1947.

Except for some recorded live broadcasts, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell were not often heard together. This piece comes from the only such studio session. This is a rare instance of the pianist surpassing one of his main creative sources. The overall quality of this particular date is uneven at best, but Bud is outstanding, producing some of his very best solos on record. I find that both Bird and Miles are eclipsed by Bud’s great solo on Buzzy, an uncharacteristically simple Parker blues that could be used as a background riff. -- DK

17. Sippin' at Bell's (Miles Davis) 2:21
S3443-2 / Sav 934
Miles Davis All Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, tenor sax; John Lewis, piano; Nelson Boyd, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Harry Smith, at Harry Smith Studios; August 14, 1947.

The two complete takes of Sippin’ at Bell’s (named for a Harlem tavern) are taken at bright tempos and Parker’s solos appear first in line. Bird’s tenor work – if one can judge by these recordings and his only other tenor date, an appearance on another Davis session for Prestige in 1953 – is rooted in his alto style, but is leaner, less aggressive, and generally less concerned with virtuosity. His relative inexperience with the larger horn would seem to account for the smaller, less focused sound and the occasionally flat intonation. -- JP

18. Little Willie Leaps (Miles Davis) 3:47
Charlie Parker Quintet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, December 25, 1948.

This Christmas broadcast introduces into the quintet the fleet-fingered Kenny Dorham by way of this composition by the newly-departed Miles Davis. Little Willie Leaps finds Parker having some quite atypical trouble with the head – perhaps that’s why he quotes Why Was I Born? as soon as he gets into his solo. As if that weren’t enough, he then pulls a trick that Davis has explained as “…Bird would play in such a way that it made the rhythm section sound as though they were on one and three instead of two and four…See, when Bird went off like that on one of his incredible solos all the rhythm section had to do was to stay right where they were and play some straight s_. Eventually Bird would come back to where the rhythm was, right on time.” This variation on that technique begins at about the tenth measure of Parker’s second chorus; the payoff, aided and abetted by what sounds like a poker-faced Roach, comes with Dorham’s tentative solo as he tries to find the downbeat. Musical jokes aside, it’s still a marvelous performance and Bird comes back to nail the head in the out chorus – suggesting that maybe the goofs on the way in were just a set-up. -- LS



1. Dexterity (Charlie Parker) 2:56
D1101-B / Dial 1032

2. The Hymn (Charlie Parker) 2:26
D1104-B / Dial 1056

3. Bird of Paradise (Charlie Parker) 3:09
D1105-C / Dial 1032

4. Embraceable You (Take A) (George & Ira Gershwin) 3:41
D1106-B / Dial 1024
Charlie Parker Quintet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Doug Hawkins, at WOR Studios; October 28, 1947.

The Hymn
Bird of Paradise

What has come to be known as Bird’s “classic” quintet brought out the best in all its members. Parker’s playing now shows a new depth and richness, the result no doubt of regular work and of building a repertoire and establishing rapport with some exceptionally creative players. Miles Davis is the most dramatically improved; his sound has become richer, his lines better shaped, and his sense of emotional urgency heightened. Max Roach exemplifies bebop drumming; he simply had (and at this writing, more than a half-century later, still has) everything – the quintessential jazz percussionist. Duke Jordan was the perfect pianist for this group. His lyricism, harmonic sensitivity and sophistication, and invariably perfect introductions were the connective tissue. Tommy Potter is the most neglected of the five, less a virtuoso than his contemporaries Pettiford and Brown, but a bassist who played the right notes with a full, round sound and impeccable time.

It wasn’t as if their musical raw material was significantly different. This date, for example, includes the almost inevitable I Got Rhythm number (Dexterity), blues (The Hymn), the All the Things You Are changes (Bird of Paradise), and only one relatively unfamiliar harmonic entry, Embraceable You. But each of the blues pieces has a distinctive color, and so do the other four pieces. (According to historian Phil Schaap, The Hymn was “Bird’s updating of the original theme song of the Jay McShann Orchestra.”) And there is also the beginning of an emphasis on the concept of a band sound. This should come as no surprise, considering that Davis was musical director of this quintet, and knowing the directions that both he and Roach would later take as leaders. As Davis put it in his autobiography: “Running that band made me understand what you had to do to have a great band.” -- BK

Embraceable You
There are very few slow, romantic tempos associated with the early years of the bebop revolution, and hardly any undisguised renditions of the work of standard composers. These are two reasons for taking special note of this last of six numbers recorded by Parker at his first New York City session for Dial. The song is a quite immortal ballad by the Gershwin brothers, and one big reason for paying attention is that this is our first specific evidence of Bird’s ability to create music of overwhelming beauty. This is also an occasion when my preference is not the version originally chosen for release. One built-in problem with a tempo like this is length — we are still back in the day of the 78-rpm single, and this first take runs three minutes, forty-one seconds, which is dangerously long. The next take, at 3:19, was safer to manufacture. Bill Kirchner notes that both takes “have been among the most analyzed recordings in jazz” and both “rank among the most outstanding and beautiful ballad performances,” but this one has a spontaneity that to me gives it a slight edge. -- OK

5. East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) (Brooks Bowman) 4:37
Charlie Parker Quintet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Joe Harris, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, January 1, 1949.
This is the earliest example of Parker’s take on East Of The Sun – the famous strings version was recorded a year and a half later. Finally we have a true ballad on a Roost broadcast. Here Parker is relaxed and expands on the romantic mood, sounding almost tender towards the conclusion of this one. One can only futilely wish that he had stretched out more often on this kind of material on these broadcasts instead of restricting himself to a relatively limited variety of tempos and tunes. -- LS

6. Scrapple from the Apple (Charlie Parker) 2:54
D 1113-C / Dial 1021

7. Out of Nowhere (Edward Heyman - Johnny Green) 3:47
D1115-B / Dial LP 904
Charlie Parker Quintet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Doug Hawkins, at WOR Studios November 4, 1947.

Just a week after the “Embraceable You” session, Bird was back in the same studio for Dial, with the same working group (Miles, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter, Roach). This time someone has upped the ballad ante, and the date ended with an amazing trio of slow standards. But first came three brisk originals, one of which in particular has survived as a prototypical work. To quote Kirchner once again, “Scrapple from the Apple (is) one of Parker’s most attractive melodies and, I’d venture, one of his most played by others.” As far as the startling quantity of ballads — by far his greatest amount of attention to this tempo range until his later fascination with Norman Granz’ idea of recording with strings — there is no known explanation for this departure, but there is certainly no reason to complain about it. Two Ballads were accomplished in one attempt each; in between, the first take of Out of Nowhere was a full four minutes — but after recording again with no piano solo, they were able to accept the three and three-quarter minutes of this version for entirely non-musical reasons. Dial had decided to stop issuing 78-rpm singles and concentrate on the new LP format; which was how Out of Nowhere was initially released. -- OK

8. Quasimado (Charlie Parker) 2:57
D1152-B / Dial 1015

9. Crazeology (Benny Harris) 3:01

D1155-D / Dial 1034
Charlie Parker Sextet: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; J.J. Johnson, trombone; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Doug Hawkins, at WOR Studios; December 17, 1947.

Six weeks later, here once again is the basic band, expanded to a sextet by adding young trombonist J.J. Johnson for this session, which was to be Bird’s last for Dial. If Quasimado was intended as a reference to the “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” it’s pretty shaky on spelling, but otherwise quite strong, superimposing a highly intriguing line on the well-remembered structure of Embraceable You. Among the reasons for singling out Crazeology is that Parker’s playing suggests that he finds this Benny Harris creation particularly inspiring. Another reason is its strange rarity. For some reason, label owner Ross Russell, who seldom tried to control the music, edited Parker solos from unreleased (and not-surviving) takes into a single he called “Three Ways to Play a Chorus.” He also originally issued Take D with a duplicated sound effect caused by a pressing error. All of this serves to increase my personal regard for the proper Take D, which is why I have included it here. -- OK

10. Bird Gets the Worm (Charlie Parker) 2:35
D833-3 / Sav 952
Charlie Parker's All Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Engineer: Jim Syracusa, at United Sound Studios; Detroit; December 21, 1947.

The touring quintet of Parker, Davis, Jordan, Potter, and Roach played the jazz club circuit late in 1947 — including New York, Baltimore, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis. The band was in Detroit, just after having finished its final Dial session in New York, when a Savoy date was arranged at United Sound Studios on December 21st. (Both companies were undoubtedly concerned about the American Federation of Musicians recording band scheduled for the new year.) Perhaps the experience of working together for several months accounts for the high level of rapport and cohesion on this date, or maybe everyone just felt good. In any event, this is top-drawer Charlie Parker: beautiful tone, razor-sharp execution, and flowing ideas. The session concluded with three takes of Bird Gets the Worm, a flashy uptempo jam on Lover Come Back to Me. -- JP

11. Barbados (Charlie Parker) 3:50
Charlie Parker Quintet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, February 5, 1949.
Barbados was the most recently commercially recorded tune in the band’s book, having been made for Savoy in September of 1948. The rhythm section always seems to have had a lot of fun making the switches to and from the swing mode; in addition, this three-man counterpoint is highly worth listening to. Parker spends much of his five choruses slipping in and around the major harmonic and rhythmic downbeats. This has a significant effect on how the melodic content of the solo is perceived; playing these licks without this rhythmic sophistication would prove to be a dead end for many players. Close attention to Haig’s comping reveals that he is trying to keep pace with Parker in these minute subdivisions and accounts for what sounds like a slight coming-apart of the time as each chorus ends. The basic difference between this rhythm section and those that accompanied such other rhythmic innovators as Armstrong and Young is that they intentionally make explicit these tiny gaps in the beat, while keeping perfect time. Such concepts would soon lead to basic changes in the jazz rhythm section. -- LS

12. Au-Leu-Cha (Charlie Parker) 2:53
B901-2 / Sav 939

13. Constellation (Charlie Parker) 2:27
B902-5 / Sav 939

14. Parker's Mood (Take 2) (Charlie Parker) 3:23
B903 / Savoy LP MG 12009
Charlie Parker All Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; John Lewis, piano; Curly Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums. Hary Smith, at Harry Smith Studios; September 18, 1948.

Parker’s Mood

It is the fall of 1948, the union recording ban is over, and we are into a week in which Parker makes his final two studio dates for Savoy and its staff producer, the legendary and short-fused Teddy Reig. (The Royal Roost aircheck recordings have just begun, but this is the end of the formal association. Having outlasted Ross Russell and Dial, Savoy’s Herman Lubinsky will soon lose out to the jazz impresario who interwove concerts and recording like no one else before or since, Norman Granz.) The first selection chosen from this session stands almost alone. Rather amazingly, considering the quantity of compositions to his credit, Parker wrote only two contrapuntal compositions. One was Chasin’ the Bird; the other is Au-Leu-Cha. There is a wonderfully witty, sophisticated and bright quality to this piece that makes me wish that Parker had felt this way more often. There is a seamless flow to the solos, and the two special pleasures of the track include noting how readily the other players show their understanding of the ambience of this unusual tune, and suddenly hearing in Bird’s solo a brief quote from The Kerry Dancers, an Irish folk tune that was one of his favorites. Parker’s Mood, one of his main signature pieces, is the final instance of my singling out a take that was not an original-choice master. In this case, it is something of a stylistic rarity. Like most of his work during this period, this was a quintet date, but this number is obviously played by a quartet. (Presumably Miles left the studio briefly and life went on without him.) To me the principal message of this number, which remains a classic element in the jazz repertoire, is Parker’s presentation of the blues in a manner that somehow melds its traditional funkiness with the excitement of the emerging new jazz. This combined approach, as well as the rhythmic subtlety of the overall performance, somehow seems more effectively presented with Bird as the only horn. -- OK

Constellation is an up – tempo number, which, like Scrapple From the Apple, borrows its chord scheme from two sources: the A-phase harmony of I Got Rhythm and the B- Section harmony of Honeysuckle Rose. Again, the B-section melody of the theme is improvised, but improvisation also enters into the A-phrase melody. Take 1 is halted after the first statement of the A phrase, which consists of a repeated four-measure riff figure. For take 2, the plan has been to changed, and now the second half of the A phrase is improvised, first by Parker and then by Miles on the first repeat. This is followed by Bird’s improvised B section. In the last eight measures, however, rather than repeating the four – measure riff figure/four measures, Bird simply improvises the entire phrase and moves on to the second, entirely improvised chorus, thus creating an interesting ambiguity between theme and variation. The same opening procedure is used in all remaining takes, but takes 2 and 5, the only complete masters, use a slightly different procedure for the last chorus or closing theme. Here the four-plus-four riff / improvised pattern is used for all three statements of the A phrase and the B phrase is improvised by Roach. -- JP

15. Perhaps (Charlie Parker) 2:32
B908-7 / Sav 938

16. Steeplechase (Charlie Parker) 3:04
B910-2 / Sav 937
Charlie Parker All Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax; John Lewis, piano; Curly Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums. Hary Smith, at Harry Smith Studios; September 24, 1948.

The final Savoy session concludes what might be termed Bird’s “middle period” before he moved into the Granz stable. Perhaps, a medium-tempo blues in C, was taken through seven attempts. Along the way there are tolerably good solo performances in takes 1 and 3 before the theme gets pulled together in the last two renditions. Take 6 has very nice Miles and Lewis’s idiosyncratic comping, but take 7 is the superior version with an excellent Bird solo.

After one false start, Steeplechase goes down nicely in one take. Both Bird and Miles take excellent solos on the “Rhythm” changes, Miles quoting, of all things, Tiptoe Through the Tulips. -- JP

17. Salt Peanuts (Dizzy Gillespie – Kenny Clarke) 3:47
Charlie Parker Quintet: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto sax, vocal; Al Haig, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. Broadcast recording from the Royal Roost, New York City, February 19, 1949.

This Salt Peanuts contains a quite specific demonstration of Parker’s technique. He plays streams of perfectly articulated eighth notes that sound almost as big and fat as if they were being played at ballad tempo. (However, as an indication that he was of course far from infallible, there is a quite uncharacteristic momentary loss of coherence as he launches into his second chorus.) Virtuosity of this magnitude made it nearly impossible for musicians of any genre to deny his sheer talent, even in the face of the crusade
against bop that so many traditionalists were engaged in at this time. -- LS