Friday, December 25, 2020

Charlie Parker - Bebop Live (ezz-thetics, 2020)

There were great plans to celebrate the centennial of Charlie Parker's birth, and most went by the boards in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ezz-thetics Records assures the year will go out with a bang however, releasing this double disc set of some of Parker's choicest live performances capping their own Parker celebration begun this summer with releases of Parker's key studio recordings for Dial and Savoy. Much of the music on the collection come from his prime period in the late 1940's with a core collection of like minded musicians, refining the bebop idiom to a sharply honed edge. The performances themselves are relatively brief, with many not exceeding the three minute length of the 78 rpm recordings of the time. But what Parker and his associates do with this time is frequently astonishing, such as taking the head of Dizzy Gillespie's "Be Bop" and blowing it into orbit at an ungodly speed, leading to a stunning section of Parker and drummer Max Roach trading passages. They did have a core repertoire that leads to several versions of certain songs being recorded. But it is also interesting to see how Parker will attack these tunes as the musicians and venues change around him. The aforementioned "Be Bop" and "Salt Peanuts" with its attendant vocal chant are among the most favored compositions along with Parker's own "Scrapple From the Apple" with a brace of all Parker compositions played at Carnegie Hall 1949. The album ends with three performances from the famous Town Hall concert in 1945 bouncing us back in time chronologically but placing Parker and Dizzy Gillespie together for an incredible blow. This music has been around the block a time or two in many formats, so the remastering is most welcome, and this is probably the best quality we are going to get out of these recordings without the benefit of time travel. Bebop was still the jazz avant-garde at this point, but Parker and his cohorts play the music with such wit and skill that it would soon seep into every facet of the jazz world. Bebop Live - Squidco

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