Charlie Parker

The Complete Dial Sessions: Master Takes

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Charlie Parker's Dial recordings have appeared on over 30 different compilations, and titles from this part of his discography are among the most commonly tapped for inclusion in Parker collections. In the year 1999, Definitive (a label that has put out more than 18 Parker editions) reissued the master takes from eight different Dial recording sessions that took place in Hollywood and New York City between February 5, 1946 and December 17, 1947. Unlike most Parker Dial retrospectives, this particular anthology includes four sides cut in June 1945 by Red Norvo & His Selected Sextet, a marvelous ensemble that included Bird, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Philips, Teddy Wilson, Slam Stewart and J.C. Heard. Since these were technically Parker's first recordings for Dial, it would have been nice if the folks at Definitive had placed them at the beginning rather than the tail-end of this otherwise chronologically exact compilation. The West Coast Dials begin with one selection from a session led by Dizzy Gillespie that took place in Glendale; the rest of Parker's West Coast Dial sessions were recorded under his own name at two different studios in Hollywood. During this time period, Parker survived a horrible drug and alcohol induced breakdown, underwent extensive therapeutic rehabilitation at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, and subsequently presided over a triumphant resumption of creative activity that resulted in some of his all-time greatest recordings. For those familiar with Bird's story, the sessions may be read like chapters in an experimental novel. In March 1946 Parker led a septet that included Miles Davis, Lucky Thompson and Dodo Marmarosa; although this session yielded recordings that are now regarded as central to the canon of early modern jazz, Bird himself was heading for disaster. In July 1946, guzzling gin to compensate for his inability to score heroin, he attempted to make records with a quintet that was essentially being led by trumpeter Howard McGhee. Bird's heartbreaking struggle with the ballad "Lover Man" speaks volumes about addiction and the human condition. His next studio recording date took place six months later, and the improvement in his physical constitution is evident. Although Dial was an exclusively instrumental label, Parker convinced producer Ross Russell to allow vocalist Earl Coleman to participate in this session. Coleman, somewhat of a Billy Eckstine impersonator, sang "This Is Always" in a sensuous style that brings to mind the exaggerated mannerisms of Al Hibbler. Contrary to Russell's expectations, it turned out to be one of the best selling titles in the entire Dial catalog. This part of the chronology is also a treat for those who wish to hear pianist Erroll Garner negotiating the futuristic topography of Parker's music. The "Charlie Parker All Stars" session which took place one week later was Bird's last West Coast date for Dial; it was also the only time that he and tenor man Wardell Gray made records together in a studio. Back on the East Coast, during October, November and December 1947, Parker recorded 18 titles at the WOR Studios in New York. This fine little band consisted of Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach, with trombonist J.J. Johnson added on the third and last of Parker's East Coast Dial sessions. Bird's next move would be to resume recording for Savoy while beginning to work with Mercury's enterprising producer Norman Granz.

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