Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Wish I'd Been There: Carnegie Hall '49
My good friend Tom Curry is the former co-proprietor, along with Bob Porter, of Phoenix Records, one of the old school Boston jazz labels. He recently he gave me "Charlie Parker and the Jazz Stars at Carnegie Hall '49." On the heels of my labyrinthine (half-finished) post on Bird, I thought I would write a simple appreciation of this fine recording. Here we have Bud is at his height, with Max and Curly on "All God's Children..." Bud's playing leaps off the recording. Max plays brushes here and this is cool for me, as I often find his kit pitched too high for my taste. Even though brushes can make a higher pitched sound than sticks, here they sound, well, throatier. Miles, Serge, Stitt, Benny Green convene for "Four." I never got that bullshit about Miles lacking technique. His smoking solo here presages his nonet "Birth of the Cool" solo. Serge sounds a bit fragmented in his solo, playing in short bursts. Yes, Stitt sounds like Bird, but you would not mistake the two-the tone is different, for one thing. Phrasing is similar, although Stitt doesn't cross as many bar lines as Bird. Benny Green is fantastic-combining a balsy sound with genuine bop harmonic understanding. They also do "Hot House," "Ornithology"...Well, you don't want a set list. Let's move to other highlights: Hearing early Sassy falls in the category of sheer pleasure, and she kills on "Mean To Me." Sarah uses a fair amount of vibrato and some repetition, which stylistically keeps one of her feet in an older, swing camp. Plus-she's got stride piano accompaniment, which could actually be her(someone let me know who it is) which also gives it a swing, rather than bop feel. But the quality of her voice is sublime and she doesn't play as fast and loose with the melody as she does later on, when her singing moved into the Baroque/Rococo. This is completely seductive. Getz is, well, Getz-ian on "You Go To My Head," joined by the Konit-zian Konitz. They are soulmates at least in that they fall on the same end of the saxophone tonal spectrum. Konitz is already looking for something different. A full Tristano aggregation pipes in on "Sax of a Kind." Eventually, we get to Koko, with Bird and Red Rodney. The head is a bit sloppier than the well-known version with Diz. Bird's solo is just as fiery and assured as his version with Diz, but the revelation to me is Rodney's solo. I always thought Red was a great player, but I put him half a step below Magee and Fats. At this point, he doesn't have quite the upper register they did (a range he did develop later on), but here he plays a fantastically adept and creative solo. For this alone, you need to seek out this CD. Someone needs to sink their teeth into his life and do a bio of Rodney: prodigy, junky, con man, safe-cracker and serious contributor to jazz.