Weekly Posting, November 6th, 2020

On Tuesday, November 4th, 1947, Charlie Parker (Bird) returned to WOR Studios in New York City, along with Miles Davis (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Tommy Potter (bass), and Max Roach (drums), to record again for Dial Records, the label owned and operated by Ross Russell. History seemed to be repeating itself on a weekly basis: they had recorded there exactly seven days before, on Tuesday, October 28th. It’s unusual to find two recording sessions so close in proximity, and this raises interesting questions. To a large extent, Bird only composed when recording sessions demanded it. He often wrote out new … Continue reading Weekly Posting, November 6th, 2020

Weekly Posting, October 30th, 2020

On October 28th, 1947, Charlie Parker (Bird) entered WOR Studios in New York City, along with Miles Davis, trumpet, Duke Jordan, piano, Tommy Potter, bass, and Max Roach, drums, to record for Dial Records, the label owned and operated by Ross Russell. This was Bird’s “classic quintet”, the band he had long dreamed of forming.  Two weeks before, James C. Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, had announced a ban on recording by union members, beginning December 31st, 1947. The effect was like a starting gun, and smaller, more flexible independent labels like Dial and Savoy raced to cram … Continue reading Weekly Posting, October 30th, 2020

Weekly Posting, October 23rd, 2020

On October 23rd, 1950, Charlie Parker (Bird) played an engagement at the Pershing Hotel Ballroom in Chicago, backed by a local rhythm section consisting of Chris Anderson, piano, George Freeman, guitar, Leroy Jackson, bass, and Bruz Freeman, drums. George and Bruz Freeman were brothers, and a third brother, Von, was initially thought to be the tenor player on the bootleg recording that survived. The Freeman brothers were mainstays on the Chicago jazz scene and often performed together. But another tenor player by the name of Claude McLin was also active on the scene, and the musical and historical evidence proves … Continue reading Weekly Posting, October 23rd, 2020

Weekly Posting, October 9th, 2020

On October 7th, 1949, Down Beat magazine published an article under the headline: Bird Wrong; Bop Must Get A Beat: Diz. This was Dizzy Gillespie’s response to a September 9th Down Beat article published under the headline: No Bop Roots In Jazz: Parker. In relative terms, this was a surprisingly public feud between two of the foremost architects of modern jazz. Had they consulted the third architect, perhaps the headline would have read: I Don’t Know Where It’s Going; Maybe It’s Going To Hell; You Can’t Make Anything Go Anywhere: Monk. The September 9th article by Michael Levin and John S. Wilson has been a source of ongoing controversy … Continue reading Weekly Posting, October 9th, 2020

Weekly Posting, October 2nd, 2020

On October 3rd, 1952, Charlie Parker (Bird) wrote a letter to Leo Cluesmann, secretary of the American Federation of Musicians, replying to charges made by Dutch Neiman, manager of the Say When Club, a San Francisco nightclub at which Bird had performed in June. Given America’s recent acknowledgement of systemic racism, and the reappraisal of past events it demands, the fiasco at the Say When makes an interesting test case. Bird biographers Chuck Haddix and Brian Priestley both cover the events in question (Russell and Woideck do not), Down Beat wrote a contemporaneous article about them, and they are addressed in Neiman’s … Continue reading Weekly Posting, October 2nd, 2020

Weekly Posting, September 25th, 2020

On September 26th, 1952, Charlie Parker (Bird) played a dance at Rockland Palace in Harlem, backed by Walter Bishop, piano, Teddy Kotick, bass, and Max Roach, drums. Guitarist Mundell Lowe filled the role of second horn, and, for better or worse, a small string section and a single oboist shared the stage, as well. The event was a benefit for city councilman Benjamin Davis, who, as secretary of the American Communist Party and an African-American, had been imprisoned for exercising his right to free speech. The ultimate goal was to get Davis released, but the event itself was simply a … Continue reading Weekly Posting, September 25th, 2020

Weekly Posting, September 18th, 2020

On Saturday, September 17th, 1949, Charlie Parker (Bird) performed with Jazz at the Philharmonic at a midnight concert in Carnegie Hall, along with Lester Young, Flip Phillips, Roy Eldridge, Tommy Turk, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich, and Ella Fitzgerald. By this time, JATP had become a fixture on the jazz scene, a success in terms of popularity but waist-deep in a rut musically. Producer Norman Granz was a visionary, passionately committed to racial and economic equality in an era when such sentiments were cause for retribution. His support of Lester Young alone qualifies him as a hero, and he … Continue reading Weekly Posting, September 18th, 2020

Weekly Posting, September 11th, 2020

On September 9th, 1949, Down Beat published an article about Charlie Parker (Bird), by staff writers John S. Wilson and Michael Levin, beneath a headline that screamed No Bop Roots in Jazz: Parker. This extraordinary article is somewhat problematic. It’s clear Levin and Wilson are paraphrasing information that came directly from Bird’s mouth, yet much of it is at odds with the received knowledge found in biographies. The writers state they conducted “a series of interviews that took two weeks”.  Under normal circumstances, it would take two weeks just to locate Bird. It’s likely, however, that Bird valued the opportunity to speak his … Continue reading Weekly Posting, September 11th, 2020

Weekly Posting, September 4th, 2020

On Saturday night, September 4th, 1948, Charlie Parker (Bird) performed at the Royal Roost, on Broadway between 47th and 48th Street. The broadcast was recorded as an air check by Boris Rose, the legendary archivist who amassed thousands of such recordings, first using disc cutters and later transitioning to tape. Even while serving in the Army during World War II, he ran a mail order business, dubbing out-of-print jazz recordings for collectors. Despite chronicling the rise of modern jazz throughout the 50s, his own tastes leaned much more toward Louis Armstrong in the 20s. To his everlasting credit, though, he … Continue reading Weekly Posting, September 4th, 2020

Weekly Posting, August 28th, 2020

Who was Charlie Parker? The first book to attempt an answer was Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker, by Robert Reisner, published in1962. It’s a collection of firsthand accounts from people who knew Bird personally, from the famous to the forgotten, and it raises more questions than it answers. In fact, one central question hangs over the entire enterprise: how much of it is true? There were no attempts to verify these accounts, and there are no disclaimers to be found as to their questionable veracity. On the other hand, the book’s title serves as fair warning. These accounts are indeed the stuff of legend, … Continue reading Weekly Posting, August 28th, 2020