Bird & Diz [1986 Bonus Tracks]
Recorded June 6, 1950 in New York
This collection of 78 rpm singles, all recorded on June 6, 1950, was originally issued in album format in 1956. Several things distinguish this from numerous other quintet recordings featuring these two bebop pioneers. It was recorded during the period that Charlie Parker was working under the aegis of producer Norman Granz, whose preference for large and unusual ensembles was notorious. The end result in this case is a date that sounds very much like those that Parker and Dizzy Gillespie recorded for Savoy and Dial, except with top-of-the-line production quality. Even more interesting, though, is Parker's choice of Thelonious Monk as pianist. Unfortunately, Monk is buried in the mix and gets very little solo space, so his highly idiosyncratic genius doesn't get much exposure here. Still, this is an outstanding album - there are fine versions of Parker standards like "Leap Frog," "Mohawk," and "Relaxin' with Lee," as well as a burning performance of "Bloomdido" and an interesting (if not entirely thrilling) rendition of the chestnut "My Melancholy Baby."
[This 1986 CD reissue of Bird & Diz adds alternate takes to make what was originally a very skimpy program slightly more generous.]
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
This compact disc is an expanded reissue of the Verve album "Bird & Diz" which first appeared in 1956. The reunion of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie is clearly the focus of these June 6, 1950 recordings, but if I might refer to the original releases which were 78s on Mercury, the heading there is quite clear. It reads: "Charlie Parker and His Orchestra." So while focusing on an important collaboration of these two bebop kings, remember it was Charlie Parker's date!
If Charlie Parker did have a co-leader, then it was his producer, Norman Gronz. At that time, Granz was in charge of Mercury's Jazz Series, signing Bird for the project in December, 1947. In his 40 years plus as a jazz impresario, Norman Granz has shown a decided preference for the jam session and a casual approach to record dates. Surprisingly, when recording Charlie Paker from 1947-54, Granz dropped his 'get out of the way and let'em play policy.' Granz's packagings of the studio Bird included overdubbing. Parker's alto onto Neal Hefti's already finished record of "Repetition," adding Latin percussion to Bird's working quintet, placing Parker in front of an ensemble containing flute, bassoon, trench horn plus mixed chorus, and of course, several recordings with strings.
This was one of the more straight-ahead jazz dates by Charlie Parker for Granz, bearing a strong kinship to the "golden era" bebop dates Bird had recorded for Herman Lubinsky's Savoy label and Ross Russell's Dial Records. The ensemble is the standard jazz set-up: a quintet of sax, trumpet, and rhythm which Bird preferred. All but one tune were quickie originals by Parker (Savoy thrived on such riffs), while the exception was a well known standard (as occurred on several Dial deals). The major selling concept, the reunion of Bird & Diz, was largely a fortuitous circumstance and, in any case, it was Charlie Parker, not Norman Granz, who sounded Dizzy Gillespie about making the gig. In fact, Charlie Parker hired 3 of the 4 sideman. Norman Granz selected only drummer Buddy Rich.
Dizzy Gillespie's availability was due to the expiration of his RCA Victor contract and the fulfillment of his commitments to Capitol. Gillespie had also disbanded his large orchestra turning to a small group and freelancing occasionally with Parker at Birdland.
The selection of Thelonious Monk - again, by Parker! - allows us our only audio glimpse of Monk's playing from that time (Monk made no other records from July 2, 1948 to July 23, 1951). Bird was particularly sensitive to Thelonious' difficulty in getting jobs and lock of recognition which helps explain him hiring Monk.
The late Dillon "Curly" Russell was then the house bassist at Birdland. His gigging with Bird and Dizzy dated back to their earliest 52nd Street triumphs, making him an obvious choice for this reunion. Curly was also a dependable studio man and this was vital to the music's success. Dizzy remembers both he and Bird staring directly at Curly as they played, taking their feed from his rock steady beat and avoiding the curves thrown by Monk's unique voicings and Buddy's dexterous punctuations.
There are many musical highlights, but the key to this new release is the first time issue of the alternate of My Melancholy Baby, as well as two new alternates of Leap Frog. Curly Russell remembered that when Bird & Diz first worked The Three Deuces, they were heckled one evening with the perennial drunkard's request - My Melancholy Baby. The bebop revolutionaries figured they'd silence him by playing it. It clicked that night in '45 and in the reprised version here. The new take is a personal favorite. Dizzy Gillespie still says Bloomdido is superior.
Also superior is the sound! Extensive vault research by Bob Porter and myself have produced not only the new material but the best source for all selections.
A final comment on the famous cover photo of "Bird & Diz." My research has discovered that it was taken Monday, February 13, 1950 at Birdland when Parker and Gillespie were reunited during a benefit for singer Buddy Stewart's family (Stewart had died in an auto accident). It is cropped on the cover, but the original photo reveals a 23 year old John Coltrane marveling at these masters: Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
- Phil Schaap