Charlie Parker – Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes – Mercury/Verve (2 discs)

A 2-CD issue sure to appeal to “Bird” completists…

Charlie Parker – Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes – Mercury/Verve B0024802-02 (1949-1952) – CD 1: 78:49, CD 2: 78:50 ***1/2:

(Charlie Parker – alto sax; with accompanying artists including: Kenny Dorham, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Harris, Al Porcino – trumpets; Tommy Turk, Bill Harris, Bart Varsalona – trombones; Flip Phillips, Danny Bank – saxophones; Al Haig, Walter Bishop, Jr, Thelonious Monk, Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson – piano; Freddie Green – guitar; Tommy Potter, Curly Russell, Ray Brown, Teddy Kotick – bass; Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Roy Haynes, Don Lamond – drums; Machito, Carlos Vidal, Jose Mangual, Luis Miranda – Latin percussion)

There are jazz completists, and then there are Charlie Parker completists. To call the later obsessive, may be an understatement. When you think of Parker as one of the top five jazz geniuses of all time, time spent collecting and listening to ALL of his recorded takes is both a scholarly and deeply satisfying experience. One would think that over six decades later that all of Bird’s recordings would have been issued. Nearly all have been, but the well has not gone bone dry. Take the case with Parker’s Verve-issued tracks from 1949-1952. Phil Schaap, jazz historian, has unearthed the remaining (?) unissued tracks – incomplete takes, false starts, and alternate takes from the Verve vaults. Just issued as Unissued Takes/Unheard Bird, a 2 CD compilation revisits the period in which Parker explored Latin jazz with congas, maracas, and bongos; as well as the iconic strings album. His interaction with Dizzy Gillespie, as well as big band minus strings is all covered here.

The set begins with “Okiedoke” from 1949 with Machito and his orchestra and Bird as the soloist.  “Visa,” “Tune X,” “Tune Y,” and “Tune Z” (all issued as “Passport” masters) follow as part of the Genius of Charlie Parker series. Here we hear relatively straight ahead bop with strong features from Kenny Dorham and Tommy Turk. The myriad of incomplete takes on the “Passport” track can be a little daunting  as Bird is almost always on his game here, while the backing band’s indecisiveness and Norman Granz’ task master role contribute to multiple takes.

From the With Strings album we get only brief false starts on “If I Should Lose You.” Next is “Star Eyes”, a gem with Parker dancing with the beat fluidly. “Blues (Fast)” is covered eight times, with Schaap stating in liner notes that it may have been a numbering system issue which caused so many take numbers. Parker’s interaction with a dream rhythm section of Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich makes the journey worthwhile.

Disc 2 covers the Bird and Diz Verve period as well as more Afro-Latin tracks from the South of the Border session with bongos and conga. “Night and Day”, “Almost Like Being in Love” and “What is This Thing Called Love”, all big band arrangements from March, 1952, conclude this set. These last three Cole Porter standards gave me the most enjoyment with Parker’s mastery finding full expression backed by a big band of pros like Flip Phillips, Bill Harris, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Green, Ray Brown, and Don Lamond.

Listeners will find a clean remastering on this set with perfectly acceptable acoustics from this time period. The liner notes from Phil Schaap help explain his extensive search of tape dubs and acetates. Parker fans will surely want this collection to round out their Verve Bird catalog.

TrackList: (All include incompletes, false starts, alternate takes, and masters)

CD 1:

Okiedoke- Four tracks plus master
Visa- Three tracks plus master
Tune X, Y, & Z (aka: Passport)- 14 tracks including three masters
If I Should Lose You- false start and master
Star Eyes- Two incompletes plus master
Blues (Fast)- Eight tracks including master
Bloomdido- False start and master

CD 2:

An Oscar for Treadwell- Four tracks including master
Mohawk- Four tracks including master
My Little Suede Shoes- Four tracks including master
Tico Tico- Four Tracks plus master
Fiesta- Alternate take plus master
Mama Inez-Alternate take plus master
Night and Day-Two alternate takes plus master
Almost Like Being in Love- Two takes plus master
What is This Thing Called Love-Three tracks plus master

—Jeff Krow

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