Kansas City's alto saxophonist
Charlie "Bird" Parker (1920) grew up in
Jay McShann's band, at first influenced by the style of Lester Young.
In 1942 he joined Earl Hines and played with Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan,
and in 1943 the trio formed the nucleus of Billy Eckstine's new band.
In 1945, besides recording the milestone performances with Gillespie,
he formed hiw own group and proceeded to develop a new tonal vocabulary via
Ko Ko (november 1945), a reworking of Ray Noble's Cherokee,
and his classic compositions Billie's Bounce,
Anthropology/ Thriving on a Riff
Now's the Time, all five recorded in november with Miles Davis, Gillespie, and Roach.
Parker extended both the melodic and the rhythmic range of jazz music in
a systematic way. His solos seemed to have no rule, occasionally sounding
arbitrary in the context of the group's playing. Thus each solo appeared to
be unique in nature, not the repetition of a distinctive pattern.
The polyrhythmic essence of his playing was emphasized by the detours of
his rhythm section, but made possible by his melodies, that toyed with beats
and with the space between beats. Parker was an oxymoron of sorts:
the player of a melodic instrument who indirectly focused on rhythm.
His music was revolutionary because it was based on discontinuity instead
of harmonious flow. His phrasing sounded hysterical and contradictory.
His playing did obey a meta-rule, though: emotion. Whatever he was doing with
the saxophone, he was trying to secrete as much emotion as possible.
The ambitious Yardbird Suite
were first recorded in march 1946
by a septet (alto, tenor, trumpet, piano, guitar, drums, bass)
that included Davis.
In 1947 he formed a New York-based Quintet with Miles Davis on trumpet, Duke Jordan (and later Bud Powell) on piano, Tommy Potter on bass, Max Roach on drums,
that recorded spectacular performances of
Miles Davis' Donna Lee (may),
and Bird's own compositions
Bird of Paradise (october),
The Hymn (october),
plus Crazeology, based on George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm, and Drifting On A Reed (both december)
with trombonist James "J.J." Johnson added to the quintet.
The bluesy Parker's Mood (september 1948), featuring
John Lewis on piano, stood out as his artistic manifesto,
and Constellation (same session) was his dizziest group improvisation.
In 1947 Parker's jazz band toured with a philharmonic orchestra, and later
three albums titled Bird With Strings (1950-52) were made
with a small string ensemble.
An alcoholic and drug addict, Parker died in 1955 at the age of 35, after
having tried twice to commit suicide.
Jazz at Massey Hall (may 1953) documents a legendary performance with
Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach.
Charlie Parker with Lennie Tristano Complete Recordings
collects the sessions recorded by the
saxophonist with the pianist:
in september 1947 (with John La Porta on
clarinet, Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Billy Bauer on electric guitar, bassist
Ray Brown and drummer Max Roach),
november 1947, with a lineup that featured Fats Navarro on trumpet, again
La Porta, Allen Eager on tenor sax, again Billy Bauer, vocalist Sarah
Vaughan, drummer Buddy Rich and Tommy Potter,
in january 1949, with time the ensemble Metronome
All Stars (including Dizzie Gillespie and Miles Davis),
and in august 1951.
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