Charlie Parker

Early Years, Vol. 1

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Even fans may groan at the sight of yet another Parker compilation, but THE CHARLIE PARKER STORY VOL. 1 has more than its share of merits. A chronological overview of his work from one end of the 40's to the other, these recordings follow Parker through Kansas City, New York, Chicago and L.A., and capture sessions with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Fortunately the poor sound quality of the first few tracks is balanced by the mid-40's cuts (when recording technology took a serious turn for the better), and in "Shaw 'Nuff," when Bird and Diz trade and overlap speed-of-light phrases, the effect is hard and clear.

There are gems to be enjoyed throughout, like the tight take of "Ornithology," in which Parker's rich, deconstructive alto is set against a young Miles Davis' bright, breathy trumpet; Earl Coleman's vocal on "Dark Shadows;" and a spectacular version of "Cherokee," where Bird glides along sweetly, accompanied only by Efferge Ware on guitar. One can only marvel at Parker's fluid dexterity and it is difficult, when reaching the end of THE CHARLIE PARKER STORY VOL. 1, to doubt that one has witnessed the birth of modern jazz saxophone.

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