Saturday, August 29, 2020

Bird On the Wireless: Charlie Parker 100

It's been a minute, but I am back again with a brand new, superfast computer. And what better way to return than with the centennial of the man many feel to be the singlemost influential musician of the 20th century? I thought you'd agree.
The Blogger tool has changed to utterly impenetrable garbage, so I apologize in advance for the oversize pictures. Or the ones that are too small.
Ooooh, I just found out how to shrink them, lucky me. Maybe the next piece of know-nothing millennial garbage that gets a little adult-babysitting job at Google can leave well enough alone, instead of changing what doesn't need changing so he can justify his miserable, overinflated Caucasian position and paycheck.
Speaking of changing things, today's honoree made a lot of changes to the music of our epoch, didn't he? The argument could be made that the entire subsequent development of music in the 20th Century that took place after his advent was on account of his ideas.
That he didn't live to be 35 years old isn't relevant any longer. You can barely make it to 30 and still transform the universe, and neither Mozart, Hendrix or Nick Drake came close to 35 either, yet here we are with them as household names and acknowledged innovators even now.
When he showed up, it was all so limited and trite, as if the purpose was comfort and the failure to challenge or offend the listener. Solos, if they existed at all, were fairly linear and mostly in an 8th or 16th note style. Their purpose was not to visit the outer limits of tonal and harmonic content, but to keep the tune under control and the presentation firmly within the realm of the expected.
Bird flew down from the firmament and instantly began to explode, almost atomically, the possibilities of form and function. He sent people and other players away from his feet with their entire sense of what was real and correct just completely binned, with good riddance to bad rubbish.
It was as if all music was in a mere infancy until Mr. Charlie Parker showed up and torched the world with just an alto saxophone and the legendary, stated purpose of playing something "that white people can't steal and make money from, because they can't play it".
Luckily for us, all people could play it, and eventually did, with Bird's mission statement being taken up in every corner of the globe. Soon, all of Western music was transformed from light, inobtrusive entertainment into a tool for the illustration and enaction of higher consciousness.
We know what followed, and how Coltrane and others came along to boot up Charlie Parker's vision into a total manifesto for cultural transformation, but it never would have happened if the Maestro hadn't been alive for the short time to do what he did.
We'll celebrate this most necessary centennial with an absolutely smashing tribute concert from almost exactly 30 years ago in France, which dramatically lives up to the designation "all-star tribute". Look out for Bird disciple and alto force of nature Phil Woods leading the assault upon your senses with a bunch of tunes associated with the birthday guy.
An All-Star Tribute to Charlie Parker
Jazz In Marciac
Marciac, France
8.13.1990

01 Billie's Bounce
02 If I Should Lose You
03 Lover
04 Viable Blues
05 Woe Is Me
06 Wee
07 Night in Tunisia
08 Now's The Time

Total time: 1:11:50

Phil Woods - alto saxophone
Johnny Griffin - tenor saxophone
Tom Harrell - trumpet & flugelhorn
Hank Jones - piano
Niels Henning ├śrsted Pedersen - bass
Alvin Queen - drums

France Musique rebroadcast from August of 2020
track transitions crossfaded by EN for less choppiness
I might do something Monday for a big 75th b'day for another modern music icon, but I'm not sure yet. I also wanna plan for a September to remember as I get back on the beam here after my forced summer vacation. A big and sincere thanks is also due to all the people who encouraged me to keep on with this thing, and especially to the person -- she knows who she is -- that helped subsidize this fresh new box.
That said, today we have to give credit where it's due and heap all possible 100th birthday praises upon Mr. Yardbird, who must be somewhere with Diz and Monk laughing about how permanently they messed up everyone's hair in the middle of the last century, and how the ripples of that deep dive still flow through the sound of everything, even today.--J.
8.29.1920 - 3.12.1955
Bird Lives!