Charlie Parker

The Essential [Metro]

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Any release with the gumption to call itself The Essential Charlie Parker had better come up with a pretty damned astute track selection to justify itself. Fortunately, this two-CD, 40-song set acquits itself well in that regard, though it focuses on a more limited timespan of the jazz great's work than some listeners might expect from the title. All 40 of the tracks hail from Parker's recordings for the Savoy and Dial labels between 1945-48, a time during which he was not only at his peak or close to it, but also in which he made some of his most pioneering music. Certainly there are more extensive surveys of this period, like the eight-CD The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-1948, and more chronologically wide-ranging anthologies of top drawer-Parker, like Rhino's Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Collection. However, for those listeners who are not completists, but want a more in-depth collection of his Savoy/Dial stuff from the mid- to late- '40s than a general best-of or single-disc release will allow, The Essential Charlie Parker is an excellent investment. It has some of his finest and most famous songs, including "Now's the Time," "Ornithology," "Yardbird Suite," "Ko Ko," "Scrapple From the Apple," and "Milestones." Particularly on the early tracks cut alongside Dizzy Gillespie and/or Miles Davis, this was music that did much to make be-bop a major movement. It's a little unclear why two 1946 Howard McGhee Sextet numbers were included -- even liner note author Chris Ingham describes Parker as "sounding like a man who has been given the wrong drug" on these two cuts. But on the whole the items picked are excellent, with plenty of detailed analysis supplied by Ingham in the eight-page booklet.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:18
2
2:56
3
3:10
4
2:37
5
3:19
6
2:57
7
3:02
8
2:55
9
3:04
10
3:05
11
3:20
12
3:02
13
2:45
14
3:06
15
3:02
16
2:44
17
2:55
18
2:35
19
3:00
20
2:45
21
feat: Miles Davis
2:37
22
feat: Miles Davis
2:51
23
feat: Miles Davis
2:44
24
feat: Miles Davis
2:23
25
3:07
26
3:11
27
2:28
28
3:22
29
2:56
30
3:49
31
2:47
32
2:46
33
3:31
34
3:03
35
2:53
36
2:44
37
2:37
38
2:30
39
2:29
40
3:03
blue highlight denotes track pick