Here in the 21st century, listeners are fortunate to be able to digest Charlie Parker's complete studio master takes in chronological order. Unlike most previous compilations, this series is not limited by original label licensing. The exact sequential evolution of Bird's turbulent career is neatly laid out regardless of the crossover from Dial to Savoy to Mercury and so forth. It just so happens that the fourth installment in the Classics Charlie Parker chronology documents a portion of a period in Bird's life when he was able (or chose) to stick with one record company. Stretching out in Norman Granz territory, this segment of history opens with three meaty selections recorded in March of 1950. Backed by Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich, Bird blows an exquisite couple of ballads and a brisk modern expansion on the "Blues." This set a precedent for John Coltrane's later excursions (i.e., "Bessie's Blues"), similarly modern adventures that were nevertheless directly connected to the very taproots of the jazz tradition. Heard in direct succession, the opening tracks feel like a warm-up for a Bird and Diz reunion session recorded three months later with Thelonious Monk, Curly Russell, and Buddy Rich. For all of the excitement inherent in this rowdy bopped-out blowing session, the real gem is their comparatively relaxed and brilliantly executed rendering of "My Melancholy Baby." Tracks ten through 22 feature Charlie Parker with Strings, a lovely artistic experiment that allowed Bird to sail at will over some very pretty chamber ensemble accompaniment. Anyone who experiences a knee-jerk reaction to the string ensemble needs to cool off and simply focus on the saxophone and jazz rhythm section. This is not Muzak; the formula was never merely Bird with Squares. Over the course of two different "Strings" sessions, the real jazz players behind Bird were Bernie Leighton, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich, Al Haig, Tommy Potter, and Roy Haynes.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf