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Charlie Parker – Bird in LA (Verve)

Charlie Parker
14 December 2021

As Dean Benedetti’s endlessly fascinating recordings have shown, even the lowest-fi performances of bebop pioneer Charlie Parker are worth investigation. Now, the somewhat higher-fi Bird in LA can be added to the canon of necessary Parker works. Featuring 28 tracks on two CDs, this recent Black Friday release compiles largely stellar artifacts from three of his stints in California, spanning 1945 to 1952. Given the unofficial origins of much of the music, the sound is more than listenable, and usually greatly superior to the Benedetti recordings. Sources include club dates, studio work, concert performances and a party at a ranch in Altadena, which must have been a pretty decadent affair, judging from the crowd noise accompanying the music.

Parker and a host of luminous colleagues, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Nat “King” Cole and Chet Baker tackle a host of Bird staples, among them “Ornithology,” “Night in Tunisia” and “Scrapple from the Apple.” But for all the illustrious company, his intoxicating alto sax is always the main attraction. Unfurling notes like a master magician, Parker never seems to play anything the same way twice, constantly going off on dizzying tangents that can induce a state of vertigo or trigger ecstasy. Decades later, Bird still surprises.