The Passion Of Charlie Parker – Impulse

by | Sep 4, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

The Passion Of Charlie Parker – Impulse 574416-7 50:16****

An unorthodox consideration of a singular musician and the music he created.

( Donny McCaslin – tenor saxophone; Ben Monder – guitar; Mark Giuliana – drums track #3; Eric Harland – drums-all except #3, vibraphone track#6; Scott Colley – bass except tracks #1, 9, 11; Larry Grenadier – bass tracks #1, 9; Craig Taborn – piano,Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Hammond B-3 organ; Guest vocalists – Madeleine Peyroux; Barbara Hannigan; Gregory Porter; Jeffrey Wright; Luciana Souza; Kurt Elling; Kandace Springs; Melody Gardot; Camille Bertault

With the Centenaries this year of the births of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, one wondered when the centenary of that other musical genius Charlie Parker would arrive. The answer to that is 2020, but perhaps the release of The Passion Of Charlie Parker might be considered as a precursor to that anniversary.

The construct of this album is interesting, in that a sampling of Charlie Parker’s compositions, with lyrics by David Baerwald (except for track 3 and 12), are offered as vocals by a potpourri of singers. The idea is to trace Bird’s life as a musical story and it works rather well.

Madeleine Peyroux lopes into “Meet Charlie Parker” (Ornithology) on ‘little cats’ feet’ quiet of voice and timbre but swinging with style and coolness. Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin dives into a long solo showing a broad and supple tone, before Peyroux picks up the closing verses.  This is a delightful opener.

It has been well documented that Charlie Parker led a very complicated life both personally and professionally. With an addictive personality, Parker developed a reputation for unreliability, yet when he was playing and recording, it was at a consistently high level. So attempting to build a musical narrative to this life story is no small endeavour. However producer Larry Klein and lyricist David Baerwald has done exactly that. On “Yardbird  Suite” vocalist Gregory Porter tells the tale of youthful burnout and the pain of love. All of this supported by McCaslin’s off-kilter tenor sax meanderings.

Actor Jeffrey Wright  on “So Long” (K.C. Blues) and “Fifty Dollars”

(Segment) brings his dramatic voice to a story line that covers his bitter departure from Kansas City to struggling in New York and working irregularly to feed his addiction. The latter theme is also addressed in “Los Angeles” ( Moose The Mooche) where Kurt Elling recounts a paean to Parker’s drug dealer.

Charlie Parker died on March 12,1955 at just 34 years of age of multiple symptoms brought on by years of drug and alcohol abuse. But as Melody Gardot suggests on” The King Of 52nd Street” (Scrapple From The Apple) there was no jazz musician more influential during the heyday of bebop from the mid 40s to the mid 50s.

This release is an unorthodox consideration of a singular musician and the music he created.

Meet Charlie Parker (Ornithology)
The Epitaph Of Charlie Parker (Visa)
Yardbird Suite
So Long (K.C. Blues)
Every Little Thing (Bloomdido)
Central Avenue (Interlude)
Los Angeles (Moose The Mooche)
Live My Love For You (My Little Suede Shoes)
Fifty Dollars (Segment)
The King Of 52nd Street (Scrapple From The Apple)
Salle Pleyel (Interlude)
Après Vous (Au Privave)

—Pierre Giroux

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