Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The "Very Best" Of Charlie Parker

The Very Best Of Charlie Parker

1. A Night In Tunisia
2. Dizzy Atmosphere
3. Groovin' High
4. Confirmation
5. Ko-Ko
6. Mambo
7. Lament For The Congo
8. April In Paris
9. 'Round About Midnight
10. Out Of Nowhere
11. Little Willie Leaps/52nd Street Theme


Plus other uncredited musicians

The trouble with being a legend is that everybody wants a piece of you. And the trouble with being a legend in jazz is that everybody has got a piece of you. Or one of your recordings, at any rate.

So it is with Charlie Parker, who recorded prolifically throughout his short career. I guess if you've got a monstrous sax talent and a heroin habit you'll record for just about anyone offering you money. Of course the upshot of this is that your recordings end up spread far and wide, making the gathering together of a 'definitive' best-of very difficult indeed.

This album claims to be a 'Very Best Of' and falls short of that perhaps, but is worth a mention for it's first five tracks, where Bird gives a bebop masterclass together with an uncredited band comprising trumpet, piano, bass & drums. I'd love to tell you more but the sleeve gives track names and nothing else.

The music contained within is all taken from live performances. The first 5 tacks are nicely recorded (in a large venue, given the sound of the between-track applause), with Bird's alto and the bass being particularly well presented. His lines are perfect examples of what he could do at his best - fast and furious yes, but with a flow and a harmonic sense that few others could match. That he could go on in this vein for many minutes at a time, improvising chordally but never repeating himself, is truly staggering.

Sadly the rest of the album is an object lesson in exploiting a legend. The tracks are so poorly recorded as to be unlistenable, and feature an indifferent Bird who can hardly be bothered to step up and solo for more than a few bars at a time. Even the trumpeter gets in on the act, forgetting to play much of 'Round About Midnight' while the rhythm section steam on unimaginatively. What a shame we have to be presented with this when there's so much good stuff around. Calling it 'The Very Best Of' has to be against some sort of law.

For quality Parker sessions, try and get your hands on the Savoy or Dial recordings of the late '40s - nicely recorded music (for the time) and a consistently high standard of playing throughout.

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