There are very very few films of Charlie Parker in circulation. The few that exist are well worth careful study….

Charlie Parker with Dizzy Gillespie February 24 1951, guests on Earl Wilson’s Stage Entrance, Channel 5, NYC.

Music speaks louder than words

This is the only live footage of Bird known to exist. The other videos on this page were filmed while the musicians were miming to prerecorded tracks, standard practice in that era. Watch to get the full effect of Earl Wilson’s dated and cringe-worthy patter with Leonard Feather before Bird and Diz are brought on, and dig Bird’s virtuoso put-down and raised eyebrow. As the band performs “Hothouse” you can see that Bird’s posture, breathing and finger position are PERFECT. Here’s another post of the same performance with different sound and slightly more of the original full image. Here’s the full discographical info.

Norman Granz Presents Improvisation

Ballade and Celerity

In October of 1950 Norman Granz hired film maker Gjon Mili for a project that was never completed. The intention was evidently to stage a jam session in Mili’s film studio while the musicians mimed to prerecorded tracks. (Here’s Granz telling the whole story years later.) This video is a performance of “Ballade” and “Celerity” featuring Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich. Full discographical info here.

Dig Bird chuckling

Here’s an out take from the session showing Bird’s enjoyment of Coleman Hawkins playing along with the pre-recorded tracks.

Bird’s chops up close

Here’s another fragment from the session, a sustained closeup of Bird’s chops in action. Alas, no sound.

A tantalizing still image showing Bird with Chubby Jackson and George Wettling

This fleeting clip comes from a live TV broadcast of the February 1949 Metronome Magazine Awards Show. Peter Losin has the details. Let’s hope more of this film will surface some day!