Donald Harrison: Christopher Jr.

On a CD that mixes jazz with hip-hop, reggae, New Orleans funk and second line, calypso, blues, the Motown sound and Brazilian samba, this track nonetheless stands out for its streamlined focus. "Christopher Jr." is Donald Harrison's pure bebop tribute to Charlie Parker. Harrison's versatility is well known, whether exploring Eric Dolphy's music many years ago with Terence Blanchard or Latin jazz currently with Eddie Palmieri, so it's no surprise that he could compose such a catchy bop tune as "Christopher Jr." and improvise on it with extreme confidence and flair.

The theme borrows from several bop anthems of yore, yet is somehow fresh-sounding and memorable in its own right, as Harrison's vibrant alto plays it soulfully with a piquant tone. McBride's transfixing basslines are upfront in the recorded mix as the altoist's solo takes flight. Harrison alternates slyly loping phrases with intense multi-noted runs, creating a pretty much perfect improvisation in the language of classic bebop. McBride's articulate solo quotes cleverly from "Get Happy," injects some engaging elements of funk, and is masterfully executed as a whole, probably one of his best recorded solos of the '90s. Pianist Anthony Wonsey responds by appearing to channel Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark not a bad combination. Add this irresistible track to your bebop lineup.

February 10, 2009 · 0 comments


Bob Dorough: Yardbird Suite / Charles Yardbird Parker was his Name

After spending six formative months performing in Paris, Bob Dorough returned to New York in 1955 just weeks before the death of his idol and friend Charlie Parker. Inspired by the vocalese of Annie Ross, King Pleasure, and Eddie Jefferson, Dorough wrote lyrics for Parker's classic "Yardbird Suite" and recorded this knowing tribute, which has remained prominent in his wide repertoire to this day.

Dorough enthusiastically vocalizes the well-known theme, and also sings breezy lyrics to Bird's solo, a sort of encapsulated telling of the ups and downs of the great bop innovator, both a summation and a shout out to the uninitiated. Imagine a multi-noted phrase like "His improvisation was miraculous" set to a boppish rhythmic pattern. Trumpeter Fitzgerald then offers a searching solo, followed in order by Hitchcock's intricate vibes, Dorough in a percussive piano style similar to Eddie Costa's, and Takas's bass, absorbingly expressive as usual.

November 12, 2008 · 0 comments


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