Thursday, August 29, 2013

Charlie Parker – Jazz Tracks


   Today is the anniversary of the birth of the great musician, one of most famous figures in history of jazz. After II world war jazz changed its character, from utilitarian, predominantly dance music, it changed after war into a part of existential lifestyle, fashion and clubbing in Paris. This was the moment jazz become fully autonomic part of musical culture with its own means of expression and deep semantics. Primary importance had Parker’s solutions in the way to improvisational freedom of modern jazz. He started the renewing jazz esthetics by turning to blues and breaking swing forms with emphatic, emotional changes in melodics and rhythm. In his improvisations he was as brilliant as original.
   Born August 29, 1920 in Kansas City, Charlie Parker was saxophonist who revolutionized modern jazz as improvised music, changing creative patterns, and has left imprint of his own creative personality in every theme he composed, every improvisation he recorded. He has set his own tracks, which became the basic tracks for next generations of jazz musicians. Charlie Parker lived only 35 years but his achievements are more important than of any other alto saxophonist in his generation. Early Parker recordings from the era of 78 rpm records were the subject of deep concern in next decades. These tracks were constantly republished in sixties and seventies in various settings and programs on LPs, later on CDs. One of such editions is the choice of top creative performances released in Jazz Tracks series by Bellaphon label (BJS 40174) in 1977.

Charlie Parker – Jazz Tracks (1977)

   Base for Bellaphon edition were 78 rpm recordings from 1947. Most of them are live recordings taken during four gigs of shorter than three months period of autumn 1947. Three songs (Bongo Beep, Klactoveedestene, Dewey Square) are recordings of Charlie Parker’s Quintet with Miles Davis (tp), Duke Jordan (p), Tommy Potter (b) and Max Roach (dr) and another four songs (Air Conditioning, Quasimodo, Craseology and Bird Feathers) were played by the same lineup plus J. J. Johnson (tb). These sessions were well recorded giving adequate image of what musicians intended to fit in three-minute recordings. It is interesting fact in these 7 recordings there’s only 12 seconds of difference between shortest (2’54”) and longest (3’06”).
   On the opening of second side are some recordings from Carnegie Hall concert September 29th, 1947. Parker played here with Dizzy Gillespie (tp), John Lewis (p), Al McKibbon (b) and Joe Harris (dr).  Two pieces A Night in Tunisia and Groovin’ High are roughly divided into two parts each. The technician did this in the way he has to. Having one recorder he just muted Parker’s solo in A Night in Tunisia (one of most inspired moments on this record), changed plate and started at the beginning of Gillespie’s solo. In Groovin’ High the same was done much better, during the bridge between Bird’s and Gillespie’s solos. The fate of other two was even worst. Parker’s Confirmation was brutally muted with no continuity, the same with Gillespie’s Dizzy Atmosphere cut just after trumpet solo. The last three tunes (The Song Is You, My Funny Valentine, Cool Blues) are outtakes from Carnegie Hall presentation September 25th, 1954. Parker was playing there in quartet with John Lewis (p), Percy Heath (b) and Kenny Clarke (dr).
   There are two major mistakes in the program of the album – opening piece is listed both on back cover and on label as Bird Feathers, while in fact the recorded tune is Bongo Beep. The same comes with No 6 listed as Bongo Bop which was Bird Feathers. Maybe somebody just switched these pieces, but in this case the one didn’t see the difference between Bongo Bop and Bongo Beep. And these are definitely two different themes, and both are beautiful, light and witty with original and unique Bird’s touch. Despite some editorial mistakes and faults, this record is still worth to remember. Jazz collectors were given here with 14 classical Bird recordings of unbelievably witty and light solos. Three stars for the whole album should be fair. 

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