A Monday night gig at Birdland in NYC on March 15, 1950 captured for a radio broadcast gives us this CD release of 13 tunes, for 78 minutes of momentous music, with the stellar talents of bebop masters: Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, Curley Russell and Art Blakey. A bonus is some eloquent and informative liner notes by Art Lange penned for this release.
There are the usual expected tunes like "Night in Tunisia," "Round Midnight," "Out of Nowhere" and "52nd Street Theme," to name just a few, but also some lesser known vehicles, like Barry Harris's "Wahoo" and Denzel Best's "Move." It is fascinating to hear this group, not a commonly recorded ensemble, as they play these gems before a nightclub audience.
Although the original sound capture quality was fairly poor, excellent mastering by Michael Brandli allows the fabulously raw playing to come though clearly, even (perhaps especially!) Art Blakey's pounding drums, and Bud Powell's inspired polytonal choruses. Nothing but top-notch stuff comes out of the two horns as Navarro and Parker egg each other on, especially on trades in a number of the pieces, with Russell's bass outlining the time and harmonic contours in a jet-driven manner. Parker sounds in fine fettle and Navarro, who passed away only three weeks after this date, succumbing to the double-whammy of tuberculosis and heroin addiction at age 26, sounds great, with a nice rich tone and finely carved lines, keeping up with Parker and Powell in the inventiveness of the moment.
It is always enlightening to hear bebop of the original wave, and to be reminded every time that it doesn't sound at all like the hackneyed, albeit polished and excellently executed bebop we get these days from so many people everywhere on the planet. These are the original architects, playing their music their way....no carbon copy, thank you. A must listen! Very inspiring. Reminds us that the best music has no "how to" manual.
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