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CHARLIE PARKER QUINTET (NYC, August 8, 1951)

Clef (1955), "The Magnificent Charlie Parker"; Verve (1958), "The Genius of Charlie Parker #8 - Swedish Schnapps", with Red Rodney (trumpet); Charlie Parker (alto sax); John Lewis (piano); Ray Brown (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums)


Kenny Clarke's only studio date with Charlie Parker took place just after Kenny had just got back to New York after a two-year stay in France and was broke. Bird knew this and was scheduled to record for Verve, so he told Kenny: “Bring your drums, Klook. I don’t what drummer they’ve got on the date, but he won’t be when you get there”.


From the liner notes by Bill Simon, Associate Music Editor, Billboard Magazine:


"'SI SI', which opens Side One, is a typical Parker original, based on the blues. The theme, played in unison by Bird and Rodney, is pure bop, but at a medium tempo, much less frenetic than it might have been in 1945. Bird takes three choruses, and Rodney the next two, demonstrating a pure trumpet sound and a legato phrasing that recalls the late Fats Navarro. John Lewis, pianist and musical director with the Modern Jazz Quartet in these more affluent times, was the pianist on the date, and while he's no virtuoso, his single-finger lines then showed his own considerable debt to Bird. Brown and Clarke, the pioneer modern drummer, exchange two-bar jabs, and it's wrapped up with another unison go at the theme.


'SWEDISH SCHNAPPS' is a sparkling brew based on the changes to "I Got Rhythm." That tune, the blues, "Indiana" and "How High the Moon" provided the basis for a good part of Bird's still greatly varied repertoire. Here again we have a boppish theme that reaches far out from Gershwin's original, rhythmically and in its use of the outer notes of the chords. We have the original and the alternate take both, and while the routining is the same for both versions, the playing is radically different. The alternate is particularly interesting, as Bird and Red seem to be reaching for certain ideas and not always making them. On the accepted take, a little less is ventured, and all is gained. A high spot of the entire disc is Bird's greased-lightning solo release on the first chorus of the alternate take."


'BACK HOME BLUES', another Parker original based on the 12-bar blues, is also offered in two different "takes". The routining again is the same for each, except that the previously-issued version has just one John Lewis chorus, while the alternate has two. Lewis, however, is not the most interesting participant in these sides. In the first take, there is a strong example of Bird's ability to construct contrasting phrases. Note in his first chorus how he takes a broad, bluesy section and immediately counters it with a rapid, slippery one. Then we have one of those comparatively rare occasions where Bird "quotes". His tongue-in-cheek choice here is "Rain on the Roof," for just a couple of bars. Rodney, in Bird's company, apparently was a relaxed and thoughtful musician – even inspired.


The last track [on Side One] is a fairly straight run-down of Ram Ramirez' 'LOVER MAN'. Bird himself sticks to the melody, except on the release, where he really let his imagination loose. His playing of melody, nevertheless, is spontaneous-sounding, virile, and perhaps more full-toned than it is at times when he's improvising. There's another example of Bird's imagination in the obbligato he concocts behind Rodney's straight melody. Some might consider the "Country Gardens" ending in dubious taste after the sensitive, moody and thoroughly effective rendition of this ballad. Maybe Bird was thumbing his nose at us."


'BLUES FOR ALICE' is the concluding track, and whoever Alice may have been, she must have been a gas to rate such a tribute. There is little about Bird's theme to suggest the origins of the blues – this is no lament nor work song. Bird's three choruses cover a wide range: he goes quite abstract, he digs down into the funk, and he soars in broad, romantic melody. Read Rodney's clear tone contrasts interestingly with the Miles [Davis] tracks. He too is on a lyrical kick here, but on his second chorus he breaks off some beautifully clean sixteenths. Pianist Lewis elects the funky road for his brace of choruses, for his best work in the set. It's a thoroughly happy collaboration, and it closes as it started out, with the theme played in unison."


Music references:

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