Bird-fanciers (ornithologists) have plenty to be grateful for this year with the release this past month of Unheard Bird – The Unissued Takes, a new double-CD, featuring 58 previously-unreleased recordings made between 1949 and 1952 for Norman Granz, foumder of Verve Records, showcasing Parker in a variety of settings – in a Latin-jazz orchestra (spotlighting Afro-Cuban rhythms), leading all-star quartets, quintets, and septets, (and we do mean all-star!), solo-ing over a strings ensemble, and fronting a big band.
Not the least matter of interest is the inclusion of false starts, incomplete takes, and alternative versions (each placed alongside the previously-released master-recording of each one – thus offering an unprecedented glimpse into the process of his creative genius.
Studio interactions, coughs, splutters – the emphasis is on comprehensiveness (it’s no surprise that primo jazz historian, Phil Schaap is behind the project – Schapp’s WKCR Bird Flight is, like this collection, essential listening – In fact, if you tune in to WKCR now, you’ll hopefully get to catch his annual wall-to-wall Charlie Parker birthday broadcast (following on, as ever, from his Lester Young one)
Schapp, aside from discovering the material, and presenting it so definitivly here, also provides extensive track-by-track history and session-by-session analysis.
From some of the recent reviews:
Jon Young in Mother Jones – Charlie Parker’s “Unheard Notes” – “His (Parker’s) gorgeous alto sax sounds as fresh and inventive today as it did more than half a century ago. Offering 69 tracks most previously unissued, on two discs, Unheard Bird is a monumental archaeological achievement”
Michael Ullman in Fuse – “The Unheard – But Indispensible – Bird” – “It’s easy to recommend this new two disc set, where the miracle that was Charlie Parker is repeatedly on glorious display. What jazz fan wouldn’t want to hear Bird rejigger versions of a blues tune [one of the many treasures in this two-CD set]…There is more new music from Parker at his most astounding here than I ever expected to encounter again in this lifetime”
Bill Brownlee for KCUR – “Casual Parker fans may express..annoyance at the idea of subjecting themselves to more than two hours of false starts, outtakes, and other studio ephemera.But for Parker fanatics and jazz historians, the new two-CD set is like discovering rough drafts of sacred scripture.
Parker was 28 in the earliest sessions documented in Unheard Bird.He was 35 when he died in 1955 less than three years after its final recordings. But rather than foreshadowing the travails that would end his life, this is vital music suffused with joy.
Happy Birthday, Charlie!