Eric Dolphy: Bird's Mother

“Far Cry” is from a special record, Far Cry, by Eric Dolphy and Booker Little. The first time I played this tune, I was in high school. I remember listening to Jaki's comping on the melody and realizing that there were so many ways to accompany someone. Jaki's solo moves so effortlessly and rumbles through the changes with more shocks of sound than actual phrases. I remember him saying that he and Eric Dolphy liked to talk in large intervals, like 22nds and 18ths, rather than 4ths and 3rds. They really had a special chemistry, and this is special music. Also, for a hip-hop head, a rapper, Del The Funky Homosapien, sampled a phrase in the bowed bass solo by Ron Carter.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments


Muhal Richard Abrams: Charlie in the Parker

This piece features what I call a pyrotechnical melody. It is impressive that everyone is so synchronized, but still feels loose. During the solos, each musician moves through the melody at their own pace, always referencing it—kind of like what Thelonious Monk was prone to do, or any good soloist. The performance feels like a free version of Dixieland group improvisation. Muhal shifts back and forth between comping and soloing brilliantly. The energy in this piece never wanes. This “in-your-face” performance is breathtaking.

August 08, 2008 · 1 comment


The Stryker / Slagle Band: Bird Flew

A catchy tune based on "Confirmation" changes. Special guest Joe Lovano's thoughtful solo toys with the rhythm, staccato jabs mixing with overtoned shrieks. Slagle follows insinuatingly in his distinctive free-bop style. Stryker enters blues-inflected with added Wes Montgomery chording. Robust exchanges between spark-plug Hart and the frontline players leads to the theme's satisfying reprise. Stryker and Slagle's over two-decade association continues to enrich us.

January 25, 2008 · 0 comments


Supersax: Ko-Ko

In 1947, an awestruck fanatic named Dean Benedetti followed Charlie Parker from gig to gig, setting up amateur recording equipment to capture every note—but, since discs and tapes were costly whereas Dean was poor, only Bird's notes; Dean shut off his recorder whenever others soloed. Thirty years later, Med Flory exhibited similar demented hero worship by arranging Bird's transcribed solos for full sax section, which he and his buddies nailed to a note-for-note tee. While this may seem like the devotional excess only lunatics could love, it's actually a joy even for relatively sane jazz listeners. "Ko-Ko" is loco but magnífico.

November 26, 2007 · 0 comments


Tommy Flanagan: Bird Song

It's fitting that a man who spent a lifetime playing superb jazz piano celebrated his 67th birthday gigging at the Village Vanguard. And it's especially gratifying, after his decades accompanying a Who's Who of singers and instrumentalists, to find Tommy Flanagan spotlighted in a trio format, where he's free to deliver more than tasty backup. Flanagan splits the boppish tribute "Bird Song" by repeatedly invoking "Thelonious" (1947), swinging aggressively (Bird) and at times almost recklessly (Monk). Basking in the glow of his 67 candles, Tommy responds to wishes of "Many happy returns" by returning everlasting happiness to jazz piano fans.

November 21, 2007 · 0 comments


Eddie Daniels: Just Friends

Although it was popular in premodern jazz styles, the clarinet has had few top-level performers since the beginning of the bebop era. But Eddie Daniels, who is also a fine tenor saxophonist, concentrated exclusively on the clarinet for a time starting in the 1980s. To Bird With Love is Daniels’ tribute to Charlie Parker. “Just Friends” was the best-known track on Parker’s 1949 strings album. Daniels’ facile bebop honors Parker’s classic performance.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments


George Lewis: Homage to Charles Parker

George Lewis—the wunderkind trombonist, electronic musician and composer from Chicago—was 26 when he premiered “Homage To Charles Parker” at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music’s annual festival in 1978. It is a work of sincerity and vision, one that affirms an aesthetic credo of his hometown organization—that a connection with tradition strengthens new, original music. The meditative first section of the piece, consisting of low synthesizer tones and processed cymbal sounds, creates an immediate context for reflection on Parker’s life. The series of improvisations that follow reference Parker’s music in format—soloist with accompaniment—but forgo the conventions of his style. You sense the musicians’ love, sympathy and respect, beyond idiom.

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments


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