Sunday, September 14, 2014

Charlie Parker – Ballads and Birdland

   Much part of music techniques, but it concerns also other fields of artistic work, was focused on giving possibly objective vision of reality. In invention of printing (1492) first aim was number of copies, but some kind of side effect was the spelling and semantic discipline. In history of fine arts this tendency has an effect in inventions of colors and geometric perspective. Famous camera obscura technique was predecessor of photography or in fact it was photography where human was active agent before invention of chemical processing. In music the history of notation was also connected the developing process of changes. After invention of photography art has changed. It took off the reality imaging, but as before it was based on talent to compose good, stable or dynamic picture, it was mixing realism with symbolism and building narrative composition. In effect phonographic records in early 20th century as the photography in 19th century created fast esthetic change. Arts and music has been released of its mimetic aims and instrumental adequacy. 
   Probably the main genre where music has changed rapidly was jazz, and the crucial moment was bebop, the first moment jazz became avant-garde art over its starting dance usage. The recording technique generated the change and ironically new phonographic industry has missed the moment the bebop was born. Leading artists were recording sweet dance hits for years while their live performances were known only for small club audience. This underground spirit was probably most powerful jazz legend, giving it more than esthetic context. And in fact jazz in 1950’s was more political issue than any other part of artistic activity. 

Charlie Parker – Ballads and Birdland (1952)

   Although mainstream companies had been forcing easier, softer touch of jazz music, some independent producers were recorded and in next decades publish unique materials in small, private companies. One of such records was Charlie Parker’s New York club recordings from 1950 and 1952. Originally album was produced by Mark Gordon for Klacto label in 1968 and then reissued by ZuZazz Records in 1988 in mid-price series. Album comprises recordings made during four evenings. First side is 5 songs played in Birdland. First two (Ornitology and 52 Street Theme) Charlie Parker recorded in September 20, 1952 in quartet with Duke Jordan – piano, Charles Mingus – bass and Phil Brown – drums. Next set of three songs (How High the Moon, Embraceable You and 52 Street Theme) is unique document of Charlie Parker and Modern Jazz Quartet meeting at Birdland November 1, 1952. Parker’s alto sounds together with Milt Jackson – vibraphone, John Lewis – piano, Percy Heath – bass and Kenny Clarke – drums. All of them were known for their recordings with Parker, but not as a band.
   Second side presents two Café Society recordings. First set is Bewitched, Summertime, I Cover the Waterfront, Gone with the Wind, Easy to Love and 52 Street Theme recorded May 23, 1950, second comprises 52 Street Theme, Just Friends and April in Paris recorded last days of the same month. Both were recorded by the same quintet Charlie Parker – alto sax, Kenny Dorham – trumpet, Al Haig – piano, Tommy Potter – bass and Roy Haynes – drums. As it is document of jazz history, it is worth to remember the 1952 Birdland announcements are by Bob Garrity, while 1950 Café Society the host was Charlie Parker. Parker’s improvisations exceeded traditional melodic, harmonic and rhythmic patterns. He returns to root functions of music elements making it the way known from folk music. How this was is possible? After half century of recorded music, it was question of time when musicians will free of notation patterns. This is what has changed performed music. The way of listening changed the way of understanding and creating music. Every new medium sooner or later becomes a technique of an art. And art is a technique ruled by an esthetic idea, isn’t it?

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