Weekly Posting, June 26th, 2020

I was particularly short on time this week, so I can only offer a bite-sized interview and my usual rants. Next week comes the third and final full length Bird interview, with Paul Desmond and John McClellan, and there will be much to say about that. But today’s interview is an oddity that was brought to my attention by fellow Bird fanatic, Jay Brandford. It’s a brief radio interview conducted by telephone on WOV by Leigh Kamman, a DJ who went by the inexplicable nickname of “the Little Band Master”. On the Clueless White Guy Scale, from 1 to Marshall … Continue reading Weekly Posting, June 26th, 2020

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

Websites and posts worth a look

Check out Kevin Sun’s website for a recent post about Bird’s performances of “This Time the Dream’s On Me”. Excellent transcriptions and informed commentary. Here’s a day-by-day reconstruction of Bird’s trip to Sweden in November 1950. Hat tip to Kevin Sun for the link. Back in May 2020, Oxford University Press published “Charlie Parker, Composer” by Henry Martin. The publisher’s teaser comes on pretty strong, saying it’s the “first book to examine the totality of a major jazz composer’s works.” Get a preview by reading Mr. Martin’s article for MTO, a journal of the Society of Music Theory. In the … Continue reading Websites and posts worth a look

Corporate America says, “Celebrate Bird’s centennial – with our products!”

Here’s a recent attempt at cashing in on Bird’s legacy. More to come…. Hal Leonard publishes “Charlie Parker – The Complete Scores” “Hal Leonard celebrates the 100th anniversary of Charlie “Bird” Parker with this deluxe hardcover Complete Scores book featuring note-for-note transcriptions of 40 classic performances for saxophones, trumpet, piano, bass and drums. This is a true celebration of an American music icon, the preeminent alto saxophonist who was one of the fathers of bebop and blah blah blah….” $60 Continue reading Corporate America says, “Celebrate Bird’s centennial – with our products!”