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Jazz CDs Pt. 2 - July-August 2001
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CHARLIE PARKER

THE COMPLETE SAVOY AND DIAL RECORDINGS 1944-1948
SAVOY 92911 (8 CDs):

Disc 1 (72:13): Tiny Grimes Quintette (9/15/44, Savoy): TINY'S TEMPO (x3)/ I'LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU JUST THE SAME (x2)/ ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE (x5)/ RED CROSS (x2). Dizzy Gillespie Sextet (2/28/45, Guild, Musicraft): GROOVIN' HIGH/ ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE/ DIZZY ATMOSPHERE. Dizzy Gillespie All Star Quintet (5/1//45, Guild): SALT PEANUTS/ SHAW 'NUFF/ LOVER MAN/ HOT HOUSE. Charlie Parker's Reboppers (11/26/45, Savoy): WARMIN' UP A RIFF/ BILLIE'S BOUNCE/ NOW'S THE TIME/ THRIVIN' FROM A RIFF/ MEANDERING/ KOKO.

Disc 2 (69:08): (11/26/45 session continued): BILLIE'S BOUNCE (x4)/ NOW'S THE TIME (x3)/ THRIVIN' FROM A RIFF (x2)/ KOKO. Slim Gailliard and His Orchestra (12/29/45, Bel-Tone): DIZZY'S BOOGIE (x2)/ FLAT FOOT FLOOGIE (x2)/ POPPITY POP/ SLIM'S JAM. Dizzy Gillespie Jazzmen (2/5/46, Dial): DIGGIN' DIZ. Charlie Parker Septet (3/28/46, Dial): MOOSE THE MOOCHE (x3)/ YARDBIRD SUITE (x2)/ ORNITHOLOGY (x3)/ A NIGHT IN TUNISIA (x3, including "The Famous Alto Break").

Disc 3 (64:11): Charlie Parker Quintet (7/29/46, Dial): MAX MAKING WAX/ LOVER MAN/ THE GYPSY/ BEBOP. Home recording (2/1/47): BLUES ON THE SOFA (BLUES #1)/ KOPELY PLAZA BLUES (BLUES #2)/ YARDBIRD SUITE/ LULLABY IN RHYTHM, PART 1/ LULLABY IN RHYTHM, PART 2/ HOME COOKING II: CHEROKEE/ HOME COOKING III: I GOT RHYTHM/ HOME COOKING I: OPUS. Charlie Parker Quartet (2/19/47, Dial): THIS IS ALWAYS (x2)/ DARK SHADOWS (x4)/ BIRD'S NEST (x3)/ COOL BLUES (x4, as "Hot Blues" and "Blowtop Blues").

Disc 4 (64:58): Charlie Parker's New Stars (2/26/47, Dial): RELAXIN' AT CAMARILLO (x4)/ CHEERS (x4)/ CARVIN' THE BIRD (x2)/ STUPENDOUS (x2). Charlie Parker All Stars (5/8/47, Savoy): DONNA LEE (x5)/ CHASIN' THE BIRD (x4)/ CHERYL/ BUZZY (x4).

Disc 5 (66:01): Miles Davis All Stars (8/14/47, Savoy): MILESTONES (x3)/ LITTLE WILLIE LEAPS (x3)/ HALF NELSON (x2)/ SIPPIN' AT BELL'S (x4). Charlie Parker Quintet (10/28/47, Dial): DEXTERITY(x2)/ BONGO BOP (x2)/ DEWEY SQUARE (x3)/ THE HYMN (x2)/ BIRD OF PARADISE (x3)/ EMBRACEABLE YOU (x2).

Disc 6 (75:10): Charlie Parker Quintet (11/4/47, Dial): BIRD FEATHERS/ KLACTOVEESEDSTENE (x2)/ SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE (x2)/ MY OLD FLAME/ OUT OF NOWHERE (x3)/ DON'T BLAME ME. Charlie Parker Sextet (12/17/47, Dial): DRIFTING ON A REED (x3)/ QUASIMODO (x2)/ CHARLIE'S WIG (x3)/ BONGO BEEP (x2)/ CRAZEOLOGY (x4)/ HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? (x2).

Disc 7 (58:58): Charlie Parker's All Stars (12/21/47, Savoy): ANOTHER HAIR DO (x4)/ BLUEBIRD (x2)/ KLAUNSTANCE/ BIRD GETS THE WORM (x3). Charlie Parker All Stars (9/18/48, Savoy): BARBADOS (x3)/ AU LEU-CHA (x2)/ CONSTELLATION (x5)/ PARKER'S MOOD (x5). Charlie Parker All Stars (9/24/48, Savoy): Master takes of PERHAPS/ MARMADUKE/ STEEPLECHASE/ MERRY-GO-ROUND.

Disc 8 (65:23): (9/24/48 session continued with alternate takes): PERHAPS (x6)/ MARMADUKE (x11)/ MERRY-GO ROUND (x1). Red Norvo and His Selected Sextet (6/6/45, Comet): HALLELUJAH (x3)/ GET HAPPY (x2)/ SLAM SLAM BLUES (x2)/ CONGO BLUES (x5).

If five years ago, when mega-boxed sets were already fairly commonplace, someone had told me that soon I'd be able to carry around in one hand the complete works of Charlie Parker on Dial and Savoy and even smaller labels, I'd have seriously wondered what they were smoking. But here it is, eight compact discs of original bebop, and even though I'm looking at the set as I type this, it's still amazing that it even exists.

This Orrin Keepnews production covers the period from the Tiny Grimes session of September 15, 1944 through Bird's final Savoy date of September 24, 1948. Savoy has licensed the Dial material from Spotlite Records in the UK, as well as tracks originally on Guild, Musicraft, Bel-Tone (the Slim Gailliard date, including two alternates), and Comet (the swing-flavored Red Norvo date from 1945 with alternate takes, out of chronological order at the end of the set) to make this by far the largest official collection of Bird's music ever. Even the scratchy Chuck Kopely home recordings of February 1, 1947 that first came out on Spotlite and Stash are here. The producer has taken a sensible approach to the multiple takes and many false starts and breakdowns by programming the originally issued master takes at the start of a session and following them with the remainder of the issued takes in strict chronological order. The arrangement allows for ease of listening for pure enjoyment as well as the chance to make in depth comparisons of Bird's solos from take to take and the development of the master take.

In the interests of space, I've omitted full musician credits for this massive set, and indicated only leaders and recording dates above. Interested listeners will already know that the likes of Miles Davis, Max Roach, Tommy Potter, and Dizzy Gillespie are well represented here. Committed fans will no doubt have many of these solos and even the breakdowns like "The Famous Alto Break" committed to memory, and working with a myriad of original sources and transfers made at various times, Keepnews and engineer Paul Reid III have done an exemplary job of restoring the masters.

As a listening experience, the set is tops (how could it not be with so many undeniable bebop classics?). The package design, though, does not measure up to the same high standards. It's pretty enough, an oddly-sized spiral bound case for the discs in individual cardboard sleeves plus room for a 92 page booklet. It takes a firm grip on a disc to remove it from the sleeves, which are manufactured just a bit too small. In fact, I've removed the discs and put them in spare jewel cases for ease of use, leaving the package a mere decoration. The booklet includes discographical information, an introductory note by Orrin Keepnews, plus commentary by Ira Gitler on Charlie Parker, James Patrick on the Savoy dates, and Bill Kirchner on the Dial sides. In addition, there's a reprint of Bob Porter's revealing interview with Savoy producer Teddy Reig, which appeared in the 1980 reissue of the complete Savoy material. That's all well and good, but it would be nice if it wasn't mostly printed in reflective red-brown ink on brownish paper, making the text hard to distinguish. And while there's been a fair amount of photo and documentary research done for the display, all the illustrations are dark and murky.

But that's all secondary to this treasure chest with some of the most glorious and wonderful jazz ever preserved. In the immortal words of Slim Gailliard, "it's Charlie Yardbird a-roonie! ... let's get together and blow!"

-- Stuart Kremsky

SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA - Three New Reissues

Evidence Records' massive reissue program of Sun Ra albums continues with some much sought-after titles, all in reasonable sound considering the source material. When Angels Speak Of Love is a rarity among rarities, and one of the most anticipated releases among hard-core Ra fans. No doubt one of the reasons is the comparative paucity of small group performances in the massive Sun Ra discography. Highlights of this set include tenor saxophone giant John Gilmore in full flight along with some choice Ra piano on "The Idea Of It All," the incendiary alto of Danny Davis on "Ecstacy Of Being," and the work of unheralded Walter Miller, whose trumpet bursts are all over the record. The four individual features lead up to a final space excursion with Miller and five reeds on "Next Stop Mars." Drummer Tommy "Bugs" Hunter's unique recording style, with its weird echoes and ghostly voices, becomes a key factor in the music. Lots of fine saxophone work on this one, originally issued as Saturn 1966 by Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra. (Evidence ECD 22216; Sun Ra (p, clavioline, gong) Walter Miller (t) Marshall Allen (as. oboe, perc) Danny Davis (as, perc) John Gilmore (ts, perc) Pat Patrick (bari s, perc) Robert Cummings (b cl) Ronnie Boykins (b) Clifford Jarvis (d) Thomas "Bugs" Hunter (perc); NYC, 1963; CELESTIAL FANTASY/ THE IDEA OF IT ALL/ ECSTACY OF BEING/ WHEN ANGELS SPEAK OF LOVE/ NEXT STOP MARS; 45:47)

Presumably recorded for Ra's Saturn label, Pathways To Unknown Worlds was actually issued only by Impulse Records (as ASD-9298) in that label's brief flirtation with Sun Ra's music, and even then it was available only briefly. (See producer Ed Michel's notes in The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums, reviewed below, which tell almost the whole story.) The Evidence reissue (Pathways To Unknown Worlds + Friendly Love by Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra) adds a previously unissued track ("Untitled") to the very short original album. Beginning a sequence of guided improvisations, the title piece is swampy and discursive, a slowly moving mass of sound that goes through a lot of changes in 12 minutes. Extra thanks go to engineer Roger Seibel for making some sense out of the multi-track recordings, which were intended for mixdown to quadraphonic (remember that?). "Untitled" is just as enigmatic, with Ra's electric piano and synthesizer prominent. "Extension Out" goes right for the jugular with a frantic bass clarinet solo by Eloe Omoe and plenty of drums. The last track, "Cosmo-Media," features more synth work plus Ronnie Boykins on bass. Evidence has coupled Pathways with the previously unissued and unknown Friendly Love. This four part album length suite of cued improvisations was probably recorded around the same time as Pathways, but without the services of Boykins. Brassman Akh Tal Ebah, alto saxophonist Danny Davis, and tenor saxophonist John Gilmore are the key soloists amid the obscure rumblings of this new addition to the Ra canon. (Evidence ECD 22218; Sun Ra (org, synth, el vibes) with Akh Tal Ebah (flgh, mellophone, perc) Kwame Hadi (t, perc) Marshall Allen (as, oboe) Danny Davis (as) John Gilmore (ts, timbales) Eloe Omoe (b cl, contra-alto cl, perc) Danny Ray Thompson (bari s, bongos, "Neptunian libflecto") Ronnie Boykins (b) Clifford Jarvis, possibly Harry Richards (d) James Jacson (perc) Atakatune (conga); Pathways: NYC, 1973; PATHWAYS TO UNKNOWN WORLDS/ UNTITLED/ EXTENSION OUT/ COSMO-MEDIA; Friendly Love: prob. NYC, early 1973; FRIENDLY LOVE, PARTS I-IV; 70:56)

Pathways managed to sneak into the marketplace before Impulse pulled the plug on the entire series, but they left two albums dangling and unreleased until now on the 2-CD set The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums: Cymbals & Crystal Spears. Cymbals includes 3 tracks that appeared on a Saturn album called Deep Purple (LP 485), but the balance of both discs is previously unissued. The music, as so often from this period, is murky and odd, unfolding as a series of small group pieces with the basic trio of Ra on organ, Ronnie Boykins on bass, and Harry Richards on drums augmented by various Arkestra members, with no two pieces sharing the same lineup. The standout piece is the soul blues "Thoughts Under A Dark Blue Light," where John Gilmore makes the most of his only appearance on the date with a long and thrilling solo. Crystal Spears was likely drawn from the same 1973 sessions as Cymbals, but here the Arkestra is back to nearly full strength, with the leader heard on an unusually wide array of instruments. Aside from the absence of his frequent chants and vocal features, this is a typical Sun Ra record, if there could be said to be such a thing. Lots of percussion, abrupt shifts in focus, bursts of synthesizer noise, interlocking riffs for the horns, herky-jerky rhythms, agitated ensemble work with complex backgrounds, and a general sense of freedom and disciplined experimentation prevail. Again it's John Gilmore who makes the strongest impression as a soloist, along with Ra himself. For fans there can never be too much music available, making the belated issuance of these Sun Ra albums a very welcome event. (Evidence ECD 22217; Disc 1 (Cymbals, 42:28): Sun Ra (org, Rocksichord & elec vibes on 3) Akh Tal Ebah (t on 2, 4) Danny Davis (as on 5) John Gilmore (ts on 2) Eloe Omoe (b cl on 1) Ronnie Boykins (b) Harry Richards (d) Derek Morris (conga on 2,3); NYC, 1973; 1.THE WORLD OF THE INVISIBLE/ 2.THOUGHTS UNDER A DARK BLUE LIGHT/ 3.THE ORDER OF THE PHARAONIC JESTERS/ 4.THE MYSTERY OF TWO/ 5.LAND OF THE DAY STAR. Disc 2 (Crystal Spears, 41:39): Sun Ra (org, marimba on 1, synth on 1, 3, Rocksichord, elec vibes & gong on 4) Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi (t, perc) Marshall Allen (oboe, as, fl, picc) Danny Davis (as, fl, perc) John Gilmore (ts) Eloe Omoe (b cl, perc) Danny Ray Thompson (bari s, bongos) Clifford J.

- Stuart Kremsky

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