Phil Schaap: Charlie Parker (Pt. 4) - JazzWax

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August 26, 2010


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The best things at the live-settings are of course the spontaneity, the communicative energy with an audience, and the variety of the various programs, since it can be a bit tiresome to hear five studio takes of one and the the same piece in a row.

And the drummer who was hired for the first Dial dates, Roy Porter, hadn't the right sound for Charlie's music. I can't stand all that casual bebop-bombing, which is sometimes more interrupting the music instead of supporting its flow.

There would be one significant difference to any live date: Charlie Parker, when he is the only soloist, as in "Parker's Mood". There you can quasi hear him "think", building his improvisation, creating version after version until he had put it all together in the 3rd, the complete take, the true master; which represents the "best" he played that day on the slow blues.

Such a thing wouldn't be possible in a live-setting. You won't repeat a tune until it's "perfect"; you play it once, and that's it. Anyway, I personally love those broadcasts, especially when Bird's sidemen can be heard in full length too.

Well, those Dean Benedetti recordings, it's very tough to sit them through, listening totally concentrated to all the longer, mostly shorter snippets of only Bird's solos. Interesting nevertheless, but you have to be awake, and prepared to digest them with pleasure.

The very same with the apartment sessions: The musicians had not too much tape at hand, and so they decided to record only Bird's solos. What came out is one whole LP (in the word's truest meaning), featuring only one performer: Bird & rhythm.

It's funny to hear him try out some new phrasings, staccato and such; and you can hear him play some of his exercises he had practiced (Rudy Weidoeft etudes), and obviously still was practicing in Spring / Summer 1950.

---> -- (Beware: All runs a half-tone too fast. There is not much you can do about that in case it's the same on the CD issue, if there is one.)

Among the bunch of kid players who attended these sessions, or rather went to the Charlie Parker School of Bop were Herb Geller (living in Hamburg today), Gene Quill (one of Bird's closest followers), Joe Albany, Bill Crow (who has a wonderful website), Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan etc. etc.

They all learned from Bird, and we still do.

Ed Leimbacher

Royal Parker indeed. He's cock-o'-the-walk Rooster on these live dates, and "White Christmas" is musically advanced, reverent, and maybe ironic all at the same time. But these excellent, sometimes prickly exchanges prove you gotta keep your spit, grit, and mother wit together, Marc, when mixing it with resolute Birdman Phil, who never suffers fowls gladly. Look Schaap or you'll be flat.

Rab Hines

Thanks for this interview series; having been a steady listener (and admirer) of Phil Schaap for years, I am still pleasantly surprised that there is always some new fact or insight that he brings.

What else to say? Thank you, Marc.

Rab Hines

What else to say? - thank you for the link to Evette Dorham's page. It is interesting to note that KD's birthday was a day after Bird's.

Thanks again.


If you are interested in the history of the "Apartment Sessions" lp, check out our interview with Gers Yowell. Gers relays how Bird and many other musicians wound up at his sub-basement apartment, how the recordings and the lp came to be, for better or worse; and gives insight into the lifestyle of being a jazz musician in nyc in 1950.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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