Charlie Parker: Billie's Bounce

Bebop's breakthrough came in 1945, when it arrived on Manhattan’s 52nd Street, and Diz & Bird made its first great recordings. This fall track doesn't rival that spring's "Salt Peanuts," "Shaw 'Nuff" or "Hot House," but is nevertheless valuable. "Billie's Bounce" features bebop's best trumpeter (playing piano only), its premier saxophonist, and on trumpet a 19-year-old newcomer who, despite showing promise, never amounted to a hill of beans in the jazz world. (Just kidding! We love Miles.) Miles's flubbed notes and Bird's squawking reed are distracting, but Bird's 4-chorus blues solo shines as brightly as a long-extinguished, infinitely distant star whose light continues to reach us.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments


Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker: Bebop

When record collector Robert Sunenblick purchased seven acetate disks from a dealer in 2004, he found – to the delight of jazz fans – that he had uncovered a previously unknown recording of Parker and Gillespie’s 1945 Town Hall concert. And, unlike most of the live bebop recordings from the period, this was a professional job, with good sound quality and no gaps in the performances. “Bebop” was the opening song of the night, and Parker characteristically shows up late, but he makes up for it with five blistering choruses. Gillespie, Haig and Byas are also at top form, while Roach stokes the fire at a breakneck pace – a 330 beats per minute tempo. Performances of this sort, which aimed to break the land speed record for jazz, scared off many swing musicians from trying their hands at the new bebop idiom. While other artifacts from the 1940s seem like quaint reminders of a bygone era, this music has not lost its edge.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


Charlie Parker: Now's the Time

One of my favorite moments teaching musicians at the annual Stanford Jazz Camp was a longstanding workshop tradition: the “Now’s the Time” communal jam. At a preordained time, classes and instruction stopped and all the participants – no matter where they were inside the hallowed halls of the Department of Music – played or sang Parker’s “Now the Time.” I’m not sure whether program founder Jim Nadel saw this as a tribute to Bird, or just a grand joke on everyone else in the music building – probably a bit of both -- but he maintained the peculiar tradition every year. Nadel could not have picked a better song. This timeless riff sounds like a primal blues, as old as the hills. Forcing the students to learn it – which we did, every year -- was an important part of their jazz education. Parker’s recording remains a classic, and his playing here demonstrates that his modernism did not involve a rejection of the past, but rather a return to first principles, which Bird respected in shaping his own novel vocabulary and musical structures.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page