Charlie Parker

Live Performances

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These Parker recordings, dating from 1947 and 1948, are radio transcriptions of Parker's band tearing it up live. There are three lineups featured. The first, for the selections "Tiger Rag," "Groovin' High," "Big Foot," and "Ornithology," is made up of Bird, Dizzy, Lennie Tristano, Billy Bauer, Max Roach, John LePorte, and Ray Brown. While the quality of the transfers is somewhat dodgy, every instrument can be heard and the performances on these tracks are simply not to be believed. In fact, it's easy to hear why Bird and Dizzy -- with their dexterity and astonishing speed though difficult changes and knotty intervals -- scared the living hell out of the swing guys. ("Tiger Rag" never sounded this good.) On the latter tunes, Bird's new band, comprised of Miles, Tommy Potter, Roach, and Al Haig, takes a more lyrical bent to the steaming trek through the blues. This is in large part due to Davis' inherent lyricism, and his limitations as a speed player. But no matter, one listen to "Slow Boat to China" or Davis' own "Half Nelson" reveals that this is a deeper band melodically and very confident in the angular way the changes are distributed in the intervals. Of particular note is a rendition of "White Christmas," where Miles uses the mute to stunning effect as Roach double-times the band and Bird plays fills alongside the melody. It's meant to be a throwaway but is startling for its harmonic invention in the breaks. Finally, Kenny Dorham replaces Miles on "Little Willie Leaps" in December 1948, with the rest of the band remaining intact; given that it's a Davis tune, Dorham works hard to prove himself and Bird cuts him in the solo. Ah, dues paying, it was part and parcel of every young jazzman's life. Most Parker-o-philes have this material, as it has been compiled elsewhere, but these sides together tell an interesting and swinging story of Parker's development as an arranger and a bandleader in performance.

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