Weekly Posting, Juneteenth, 2020

On June 22, 1945, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie performed at New York City’s Town Hall, in a concert presented by the New Jazz Foundation. This fledgling organization apparently suffered an early death. After producing two high-profile Town Hall concerts (both featuring Bird and Diz) and some record releases, it seems to have evaporated. It’s founder, jazz promoter Monte Kay, went on to success, booking Bird at the Royal Roost in 1949 and setting the stage for the opening of Birdland In 1950. Despite producing some very memorable music, the Town Hall concerts were poorly reviewed, because many of the … Continue reading Weekly Posting, Juneteenth, 2020

Weekly Posting, June 12th, 2020

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 13, 1953, Charlie Parker (Bird) was interviewed on WHDH radio in Boston by John McLellan, host of a jazz show called The Top Shelf. McLellan, whose real name was John Fitch, did much to promote jazz in Boston throughout the 1950s. In addition to hosting his radio show, he conducted live broadcasts from Storyville, interviewed visiting jazz stars, and wrote a weekly newspaper column. He certainly deserves our respect for these and other good works on behalf of the music. More’s the pity, then, that he bungles his interview with Bird. It’s less of a … Continue reading Weekly Posting, June 12th, 2020

Weekly Posting, June 5th, 2020

Charlie Parker (Bird) and Dizzy Gillespie entered the recording studio together for the last time on June 5th, 1950 (along with Thelonious Monk, piano, Curly Russell, bass, and Buddy Rich, drums). This sounds more ominous than it is. Aside from a very busy period in 1945, they weren’t in the habit of recording together. The revolutionary recordings they made that year stand astride jazz history like a colossus, but there were just two studio dates, February 28th and May 11th. Circumstances brought them together as sidemen on other recordings and they were also in residence at the Three Deuces on … Continue reading Weekly Posting, June 5th, 2020

Weekly Posting, May 29th, 2020

As far as I can tell, nothing momentous happened to Charlie Parker (Bird) at the end of May at any point in his life. This statistical fluke presents an opportunity to listen to the second half of an interview with trumpeter Howard McGhee, conducted by preeminent Bird scholar Phil Schaap. The first half concerns Bird’s July 29th, 1946 breakdown in Los Angeles, so it makes sense to save that for midsummer. In the second half, though, McGhee reminisces about Bird in a more general way. McGhee was one of the earliest exponents of modern jazz on the West Coast, and … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 29th, 2020

Weekly Posting, May 22nd, 2020

On Friday, May 15th, 1953, Charlie Parker (Bird), Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, at an event sponsored by the New Jazz Society. No other gig in Bird’s life has been so thoroughly documented. There’s even a well researched and entertaining book about it, Quintet Of The Year, by Geoffrey Haydon. Over the years, the recordings made at Massey Hall that night (by Mingus and Roach) have been issued and reissued in many forms. One release was hyperbolically titled “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever”. Everyone can make their own judgment about that, … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 22nd, 2020

Weekly Posting, May 15th, 2020

In Bird Lives, Ross Russell relates a 1948 incident in which Charlie Parker (Bird) cornered Marshall Stearns, a Cornell professor and poetry scholar, in the men’s room at the Onyx Club and hit him up for cash. Stearns was at the urinal and Bird allegedly came up behind him, at the moment of maximum vulnerability, and opened negotiations regarding a small loan. After some back and forth, Stearns handed over $5. If true, this would have undoubtedly been a traumatic moment for Stearns. Two years later, it seems he still hadn’t made a full recovery. In May of 1950, Stearns had … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 15th, 2020

Weekly Posting, May 8th, 2020

On May 8th, 1947, Charlie Parker (Bird) entered Harry Smith Studios for his “homecoming” recording date for Savoy Records, the first since his return to New York City on April 7th. Bird was in robust health, free of his heroin addiction, and filled with ambition. At long last he had assembled the quintet of his dreams, and he was bringing in two extraordinary new compositions. Three out of the four songs recorded that day were destined to become classics. And yet the performances are vexed in ways that are difficult to account for. All we can do is guess. It’s … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 8th, 2020

Weekly Posting, May 1st, 2020

The following is the second half of Addie Parker’s remembrance, as told to Robert Reisner, with some reordering for clarity. The Gospel of Adeline, Part 2 Charles always thought he could make it in Kansas City, but after he and Rebecca disagreed he had to leave and went to Chicago for a while and from there to New York. He was in New York when he took those drugs..Charles’s father died when he was 17. We had been separated for years. Some lady stabbed him during a drunken quarrel. I got a hold of Charles and brought him home for … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 1st, 2020

Weekly Posting, April 24th, 2020

For the next two weeks, I am going to step aside and let Addie Parker do all the talking. As hinted at last week, her jumbed remembrance after Bird’s death males a fascinating mini-biography. I had to rearrange her words to make her story more linear. It’s possible that she was in a state of mild dementia at the time she was interviewed, because she veers from topic to topic, constantly tangling up the timeline. This would make her a somewhat unreliable narrator, and there are discrepancies between her version of events and documented facts, although nothing serious. Due to … Continue reading Weekly Posting, April 24th, 2020

Weekly Posting, April 17th, 2020

On Thursday, April 20th, 1950, Addie Parker, graduated from the National Schools Institute of Practical Nursing in Kansas City. Charlie Parker (Bird) speaks of his mother’s achievement with pride in an interview recorded not long afterward, an excerpt of which is presented along with today’s musical offering. The circumstances are informal and Bird uses his natural speaking voice, setting aside the accent he affected for bandstand announcements and radio patter. Regrettably, the interviewers are squares of epic proportions who largely waste this invaluable opportunity. The following transcription of the excerpt in question gives some indication of the stilted atmosphere they … Continue reading Weekly Posting, April 17th, 2020