Charlie Parker — 1949 Concert
This is an unusual record on a label I ain’t never heard of otherwise called Alamac. A little internet digging reveals that it was a live concert recorded and broadcast from Carnegie Hall on Christmas night 1949. What a different era. Pre-TV I’d imagine with folks tuning in on giant wooden console radios to hear live bebop performed in front of an appreciative audience at one of the most prestigious and storied music halls. I try to imagine the scene, dudes in suits smoking filterless cigarettes, pomade in everyone’s hair…
In the midst of all this context, we have Bird shredding on his horn with a solid combo featuring the underrated Red Rodney on trumpet, Al Haig on keys, Tommy Potter on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. I’ve heard a ton of Charlie Parker in my time but I always prefer these live sessions with long winding solos and horribly unbalanced volumes. Solos are loud but everything else is roomy and somewhat nebulous. You can hear the piano and bass volumes shoot up whenever there is a piano solo and I guess the volume of the upright varies depending on how close he is to that piano mic. I don't think anyone mixed the drums, only the bass drum accents are clearly heard.
Even tho he’s known for his flying licks over burning tempos, my favorite version of Bird is over slow ballads, mid-tempo standards, and blues. His approach to “Bird of Paradise” showcases all this here. His sense of humor (quoting Popeye the sailor man theme and also woody woodpecker), deep bluesiness, and flashy double-time runs. The dude was unparalleled at this stuff. Hard to imagine he was dead at 34 and only 29 on this recording.
A lot of people are unaware of the struggle he went thru, being committed to mental hospitals twice and attempting suicide twice after his daughter suddenly passed at the age of 3. Also not commonly known is that his drug addiction began after he was in a car accident at the age of 16 and was prescribed morphine during his recovery.
Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker”