The Quintet/Charlie Parker
The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall (Original Jazz Classics '91)
Date: 5/15/53. Length: 47 minutes. Place: Toronto, Ontario. Band: Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus, Max Roach, and clandestine alto saxophonist Charlie "Chan." Never mind the apparently similar Diz N Bird at Carnegie Hall (24 minutes of a quintet that adds John Lewis, Al McKibbon, and Joe Harris to the two horns before turning into a big band record) or the hosannahed Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (38 Bird-Diz-Roach minutes substituting Parker's studio-favored Al Haig-Curly Russell piano-bass combo). Without question, this is live Bird numero uno even though the setlist belongs to Dizzy, including the inevitable (and dandy) "Salt Peanuts" and "Night in Tunisia." Parker's relaxed, bluesy mood is epitomized by a seriously interactive "All the Things You Are" that shifts bar-by-bar between virtuoso phrases and soulful here's-the-melody before dissolving into a "52nd Street Theme" breakdown. Gillespie is lyrical and incisive, Powell brings his A game, Roach thunders like no post-swing drummer working, and Mingus's bass is the most expressive in classic bebop. O Canada! A
Charlie Parker: Now's the Time (Verve '90)
Discographically, Bird on Verve is a mess, primarily but not exclusively due to the strings, orchestras, and choruses Norman Granz employed to market his prize‑-with the prize's enthusiastic cooperation, absolutely, but that does nothing to undercut the grandiose guff that gums up the Confirmation: Best of the Verve Years twofer. The 1950 Bird and Diz, which features a muffled Monk and isn't as badly damaged as might be by Buddy Rich's bombs, is a pricey import-only. And it isn't nearly as miraculous as this lucky yoking of two quartet sessions: the first 12/30/52 with Hank Jones-Teddy Kotick-Max Roach and the second 8/4/53 with Al Haig-Percy Heath-Max Roach. The recording strategy is pretty consistent: Parker states the theme with minimal help and plays till about 1:50, after which the other guys jam their choruses in before the three-minute mark. Of these, Roach's are generally the most musical, with Jones's fuller and solider than Haig's and the single solo Kotick gets room for higher in content than any of Heath's walks, which do saunter some as his half proceeds. But the core is 25 minutes of unimpeded Bird. The two "Cosmic Rays" should be one at most, and four takes of the midtempo blues "Chi-Chi" is one too many, although the CD-only add-on is welcome because it's where Parker drops the virtuoso boilerplate and sticks to what may be blues boilerplate but who cares. Everything else is superb: two standards, Parker's "Laird Baird" sounding like a standard itself, the non-rote virtuosity of two lightning-quick "I Got Rhythm"-based "Kim"s, the only studio version of his oft-covered "Confirmation," and the definitive rendition of the title original, which in 1949 provided r&b journeyman Paul Williams the materials for a dance smash called "The Hucklebuck" that isn't the first rock and roll record but deserves a nomination. A PLUS
Most of the time, the compilers at Kent really know what they're doin'. Their history *The Fame Studios Story 1961-73* is aimed at nut cases like most of us EW posters, but if you fit the mold, it's a treat and a half.
I just picked up two perfectly symmetrical compilations that came out this year, “Country Funk 1969-1975” and “Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Funk”. The former is the story of country boys trying to get funky (should be spelled "fonky") and the latter features soul artists of various repute covering country songs. The differences are more than white versus black—it’s probably fairer to say the schism is one of talent. If “Country Funk” was consistently up to the standard of, let’s say, Ronnie Van Zant singing “I Ain’t the One” (which isn’t on here and blows every song on this CD except Johnny Jenkins’ “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” out of the water), then I might think this CD was telling us something new. Instead, we suffer through ignorant dreck like Mac Davis’ “Lucas Was A Redneck” and something awful called “Hawg Dawg”. I’m not sure whether this is more musically dispiriting or culturally embarrassing, but it is definitely a lot of both.
“Behind Closed Doors” is, in comparison, a long drink of sweet iced tea with a little bourbon mixed in, starting with Aaron Neville’s sideways melisma creaming up a George Jones tune and ending with Brook Benton breaking down on “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye”. This compilation is much more about telling the story of the soul-country nexus than it is about mining for rarities, but that affects the overall quality in a positive way. In some cases (Joe Tex’s “Rope A Dope” for one) the tunes are so sui generis that I never realized they had a previous existence. When this CD lags (Tami Lynn followed by the Limelites), it comes back hard with an Al Green-James Carr-Candi Staton sequence that would bring a (perhaps deeply mortified) Hank Williams back from the grave. Well done, great notes, and yeah there was more to country soul than “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music”.
I ordered Dave Brubecks's "Time Out".
Much to my surprise-there on my shelf-a
copy of Dave Brubeck's "Time Out". In the
spirit of the season-anyone want it? Tell me
how to get it to you. Happy Holidays..
USA , please.
But he did end the whole show in Boston with a poignant version of "Save the Last Dance for Me"--what a great bookend for the show opener, "Dance Me to the End of Love."
I'm a relatively late convert to Leonard Cohen-brought in by Live in London and his set of poems Book of Longing which had me laughing out loud so many times...
But this show, oh lord! These really are his glory days--and as the feller said about "Glory Days" Leonard reminds us that, "among other things, getting old is a good joke."
Marine Girls -- Lazy Ways/Beach Party. Check.
Brendan Bowyer -- The Hucklebuck. Check.
Thanks going out to Milo, Cam and Liam.
Now for the hard job, sorting out Charlie Parker comps.
Short of time, but let me just say that spending the evening with 77-year old Leonard Cohen last night at MSG - where he played an awesome 3-hour concert - was truly an unforgettable experience. Cohen is God! Hallelujah, friends.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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