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The Charlie Parker Story

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SAVOY MG-12079

The Charlie Parker Story

This record represents the complete chronology of Charlie Parker's most famous record session, recorded 11-26-45, 2:00-5:00 P.M. The personnel on the date was as follows: Parker - alto saxophone, Miles Davis - trumpet, Bud Powell - piano, Curley Russell - bass, Max Roach - drums.

This session was a significant document of the early progressive movement for several reasons.

First, the formal: a small flexible group (three rhythm, two front line) following the utmost lineal freedom with none of the older "section" feeling; second, the material; the "blowing of a line" on an old set of changes - The archetype of practically all of Parker's works. It is significant that Parker constantly returned to the blues as a wellspring of expression ("Billie's Bounce" and "Now's the Time"). It was by using a simple form such as the blues that Parker was able to deal with problems of line that constituted his major achievement. A lesser artist would have enmeshed himself in a more complicated structure, which would have eventually destroyed the emerging conception of modern jazz. This touches at the roots of Parker's music. His basic relationship to the material evolved from the primal source of all music - time. His main attack was directed at the bar - line. The rigidity of the swing line first threatened by Roy Eldridge, Lester Young and Tatum was completely demolished by Parker. The bar-line acting as a lonely sentinel warning "chord change ahead," "end of the section", "approaching release" now only remained a form of musical punctuation for the listener.

Band #1 "BILLIE'S BOUNCE" New Take #1 - 2:20
Typical Bud intro. This was the first take of the session and neither Parker nor Miles were warmed up. The solos of both are undistinguished Bird is having trouble with his horn. Chord chart based on traditional blues in F.

Band #2 "BILLIE'S BOUNCE" Shod Take #2 - 1:20
Another Bud intro. This is a short take with a few better moments in Bird's solo. A squeak ends the take.

Band #3 "BILLIE'S BOUNCE" New Take #3 - 3:05
More Trouble. Again undistinguished blowing. This take contains the trumpet solo this some feel is a put-on by Dizzy. The tone certainly approaches the ludicrous. Some feel that the ideas are not typical Miles although I do not agree with this. In these three takes, neither Miles nor Parker get beyond the eighth-note in the rhythmic strata. Tonally, Bird and Miles seem unsure, depending on a stereotyped phrases with no particular creativity.

Band #4 "WARMING UP A RIFF" Orig. Take #1 - 2:30
"Warming Up A Riff" fairly up, in Bb. Incomplete take, evidently coming in the last eight of Parker's first chorus and proceeding through two more. Solo is not particularly good; endless eighth notes - not fresh ideas. 'Comping' probably Bud, is excellent. Parker's tone is not good on this take. Take fades after third Parker chorus.

Band #5 "BILLIE'S BOUNCE" Orig. Take #4 - 2:00
Blues in F. Characteristic Bud intro, more horn trouble. Third chorus good - best so far. Take ends in fourth chorus because of squeak.

Band #6 "BILLIE'S BOUNCE" Orig. Take #5 - 3:05
Several bad goofs by Miles on head. First chorus interesting. In bars 9 to 12 of the second chorus, the great Parker suddenly emerges with a fantastic flow of 32nd notes full of harmonic implication, with dearly defined pulses. Then follow two more choruses containing more intensity than had appeared heretofore. The beginning of the fourth chorus contains a tongueing passage giving a feeling at whimsy to the chorus. Following this are two extremely legato choruses by Miles, with almost a Beiderbecke feeling. Eighth notes abound - the tone is bad. Again the head for two and out.

Band #7 "NOW'S THE TIME" Short Take #1 - 0:20
Band #8 "NOW'S THE TIME" Short Take #2 - 0:37

Blues in F. This and the following two lakes open with a strange Prokofieff-like intro built on minor seconds and perfect fourths, repeated note for note each time. The reason for cutting the first take is not apparent, neither for cutting the second.

Band #9 "NOW'S THE TIME" New Take #3 - 3:05
This is more like the real Park-multi-rhythms abound with a good down-home feeling. After three brilliant Parker choruses, Miles completely dispels the feeling with two choruses of extremely lugubrious unswinging trumpet. Then follows a walking-bass solo for one chorus, then the head and out.

Band #10 "NOW'S THE TIME" - Orig. Take #4 - 3:15
Blues is F: great Parker: brilliant multi-rhythms. Head-one chorus, same piano intro. Wonderful fills by Bud and Max. Parker: three choruses; Miles: lugubrious, unswinging, no ideas – two choruses – bass solos – one chorus – Russell. One Head and out.

Dizzy and Parker approach this material in basically different ways: Dizzy through harmony, Parker through time. Thus in a careful study of the two giants, Dizzy would appear more provocative in tonal areas and harmonic inflection, but when dealing with time, Parker has no peer. Without the frontal attack upon time which Parker led with such complete mastery, there is no question but what the progressive movement would have degenerated into a lifeless succession of tonal pastels.

Parker was having trouble with his horn and a cab was called to take him to Manny's. The date finally started at 3:30. Throughout many of the takes, it is obvious that Bird was unable to correct what was a reed problem. To make matters worse, Miles was not playing well. A dreary succession of eighth notes, coupled with a tonal quality bordering on caricature, sum up Miles on that particular day.

To confuse matters even more, Bud was constantly disappearing with Miles and finally Dizzy showed up to add to the melee. There are some qualified people who feel that some of the purported Miles' solos are not Miles at all but Dizzy imitating Miles. Dizzy remembers playing both piano and trumpet on the date but just where and when is not clear. As a final irony, a pianist by the name of Argonne Thornton claims he played the date or at least part of it, although this is denied by Herman Lubinsky who conducted the session.

Band #11 "THRIVING FROM A RIFF" New Take #1 - 3:00
Thriving From A Riff in Bb. The piano intro is completely chaotic rhythmically and harmonically; I just can't believe it is Bud. Who is playing piano? I frankly don't know. Good Parker. One head - good unison - Trumpet muted. Two fine Parker choruses followed by an equally fine muted trumpet solo, which it is very doubtful is Miles, on basis of previous takes. Technique - ideas - tonal control beyond Miles - must be Dizzy sitting in. Amusing interpolation in first Parker chorus - "In and out the window," a children's nursery rhyme. Also, the trumpet seems unsure of the head - constantly falling out and returning again. Dizzy not making The head too well.

Band #12 "THRIVING FROM A RIFF" Short Take #2 - 0:20
"Thriving" - First of the two "mystery tapes". This is very short lasting only sixteen bars strange un-Bud-like intro built on repeated descending chromatic-scale fragments, an obvious device with unschooled pianists. No head-opens on trumpet solo – excellent for no apparent reason cut off at bridge.

Band #13 "THRIVING FROM A RIFF" Orig. Take #3 - 3:00
Same characteristic intro, trumpet choruses. Same idea in beginning of bridge as in #2 Sounds like Diz on trumpet. Is Miles playing piano? Not Bud, not Diz, Another pianist claimed he was on date - denied by Lubinsky. One chorus excellent trumpet - two greater Parker choruses. Strange, Martian piano solo. On the head Parker is alone. Could it be Diz on piano and pulled-together Miles or Diz on trumpet with Bud just clowning around?

Band #14 "MEANDERING" Only Take - 3:15
A Ballad in Eb. Beautiful Bud intro, only take incomplete - no trumpet. Moving lyrical chorus by Parker, then after an equally moving piano solo by Bud, for some unknown crazy reason, cut in the fourteenth bar. Someone should have his head examined -- chord block in twelfth bar evidently upset him.

Band #15 "KOKO” Short Take #1 - 0:40
Band #16 "KOKO" Orig. Take #2 - 2:50

Now we come to the incredible "Koko", in Bb way up. Gillespie on trumpet. Four eight-bar sections; eight bar head - eight bars trumpet - eight bars alto - eight bars head into first of Parker's two choruses, The second and third sections in head appear to follow no particular harmonic pattern and are seemingly based on a Bb ostinato.

Bird's two choruses represent some of his greatest blowing. Like all great improvisors, Parker's choruses would build to an unbelievable cascade of pitch and time; as here, the second chorus is to me the perfect microcosm of Bird's genius. Why Diz didn't blow a chorus on this, I do not know. His interludes here are magnificent fantasies pulsating with harmonic inference.

Again the short take cut for no apparent reason, Max’s solo extends a strange twenty-eight bars. It is not concerned with sonorities, but rather with playing against time of which Max is the master. Again the head (twenty-eight bars) and out.

If Jazz critics ever established inflexible standards of evaluation allowing for two or three five-star records a year, they might use Koko as an absolute.

Special Notes and Commentary by JOHN MEHEGAN
Remastered by VAN GELDER
Produced by OZZIE CADENA

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