By Cassandra Yany
Saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker is re-releasing five of his records for The Mercury & Clef 10-Inch LP Collection for his 100th anniversary, “Bird 100.” Bird was “an architect of modern music” and is widely known as the greatest alto saxophonist.
The LPs Charlie Parker With Strings (1950), Bird and Diz (1952), Charlie Parker Plays South of the Border (1952), Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2) (1953), and Charlie Parker (1954) have been newly remastered, pressed to 10-inch black vinyl and packed in the original album covers. The collection will be available for purchase December 18 exclusively via uDiscover and the Official Charlie Parker webstore.
The boxed set serves as an ode to the 10-inch vinyl, which was a popular format in the late 1940s, between the 78 and the 12-inch. It includes an elegant booklet that contains rare photos, detailed recording session information and essays by pianist-journalist Ethan Iverson and author David Ritz. All of the albums, aside from Bird and Diz, have been out of print on vinyl since their original releases. These elements make the collection the most detailed presentation yet of Bird’s rich 1940s to mid-1950s streak before he passed in 1955 at the age of 34.
Bird’s Strings albums mark two peaks in his recording. Vol. 1 starts off with his version unforgettable version of Sam Lewis and John Klenner’s “Just Friends,” which contains a thrilling and technically brilliant improvised saxophone solo. Thomas Adair and Matt Dennis’ sorrowful “Everything Happens to Me” is lifted with the singing of Bird’s sax. Parker naturally channels a romantic ballad with his spin on Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” Vol. 2 produces a nocturnal mood with tracks such as George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” Arthur Scwartz and Howard Dietz’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and Cole Porter’s “Easy to Love.”
Bird’s most well-known collaborator was trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Bird and Diz provides a look at the pair and was the only joint session with Bird, Diz and revolutionary pianist Thelonious Monk. The album includes the toe-tapping “Bloomdido,” and the percolating “An Oscar for Treadwell.” Co-written by Parker and trumpeter Benny Harris, “Leap Frog” is dizzying in its velocity and quicksilver innovation.
Parker and Gillespie dabbled in Afro-Cuban styles, particularly with pioneering Latin vocalist and percussionist Machito. South of the Border demonstrates Bird’s transcultural connection. In Iverson’s essay, saxophonist Henry Threadgill notes “the rassling match when the modern jazz guys came in and tried to play with the Latin cats in the Forties.” He points out that Bird did this effortlessly: “Charlie Parker could bring the music together, but as soon as Bird stopped, the rassling match would begin again.” This is where Parker is in his element, especially on songs like Óscar Gómez and Albert Hammond’s “Un Poquito De Tu Amor,” Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico Tico,” and Manuel Ponce’s “Estrellita.”
Bird recorded his self-titled album in 1952 and 1953 with two quartets including drummer Max Roach. One side featured bassist Percy Heath and Al Haig, while the other featured Teddy Kotick and pianist Hank Jones. This essential title is Bird’s only studio LP in a quartet setting, is a standout with the strength of its performances and its clean recording quality. Bird proves his power on esteemed tracks like “Now’s The Time,” “Laird Baird” and “Confirmation.”
The Mercury & Clef 10-Inch LP Collection completes an excellent year for Bird and indicates another great one to come. Prior to the hundredth anniversary, Verve/ UMe released The Magnificent Charlie Parker on vinyl and Jazz at Midnite for Record Store Day. Next year, the recording company will release a new collection title Bird In LA, which will offer a new perspective on a previously under examined part of Parker’s life. The collection will include unreleased songs that were recorded during Bird’s documented visits to Los Angeles in the mid ‘40s through the early ‘50s.
The set features David Stone Martine’s illustrated original sleeve art, which uDiscover is also offering as framed, archival-quality canvas prints. The wall art is available in various sizes and includes the albums Big Band, Machito Jazz With Flip & Bird, The Magnificent Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker With Strings and Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2).
The Mercury & Clef 10-Inch LP Collection
LP1 – Charlie Parker With Strings (1950)
- April In Paris
- If I Should Lose You
- I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
- Everything Happens
- Just Friends
LP2 – Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2) (1953)
- They Can’t Take That Away from Me
- You Came Along from Out of Nowhere
- East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)
- Dancing in the Dark
- East to Love
- I’m in the Mood for Love
- I’ll Remember April
LP3 – Bird & Diz (1952)
- My Melancholy Baby
- Relaxing with Lee
- Lead Frog
- An Oscar for Treadwell
LP4 – Charlie Parker Plays South of the Border (1952)
- Tico Tico
- Un Poquito de Tu Amor
- My Little Suede Shoes
- Begin the Beguine
- La Paloma
- La Cucaracha
- Mama Inez
LP5 – Charlie Parker (1954)
- Now’s the Time
- I Remember You
- Chi Chi
- I Hear Music (a.k.a. The Song is You)
- Laird Baird
- Cosmic Rays
Pre-Order The Mercury & Clef 10-Inch LP Collection Here
View Unboxing Video Here