Four Charlies, The Immortal…series (UK London,1958)

Volumes 1 to 4 in the 5 series set

Track Selection: Charlie Parker “Meandering” (unpublished)

Music

Not a completist by any stretch, but the opportunity came up last week to add Volumes 1-4 to my existing Volume 5 of this 1958  five volume UK series “The Immortal Charlie Parker” . It covers studio sessions recorded by Savoy in New York 1944-8. London Records “American Jazz Recordings”  (Crimson and Silver label) are invariably weighty vinyl and impeccably pressed, I imagine by Decca or Phillips. Whatever the limitations of recording technology in the Forties, (“Hello, London Calling, long distance. Can you hear me?”)  these late fifties pressings offer the best chance of hearing these Parker sessions at their best.

Though offering superior quality studio sound recording, the downside is the inclusion of all the false starts and discontinued solos – each tune has around three goes before arriving at a satisfactory full take.  It’s like  the Louvre displaying all Leonardo DaVinci’s early attempts to get the “Mona Lisa” smile just right.  A trout pout, a wink, a sneer, no,  a smirk, no, bit too smug, a belly laugh, not enigmatic enough, finally, got it – it’s a wrap! Why not just go with the best?

Anyway, the recording quality is a trade off. The “Masterpiece Vol1-3” series I have are mainly live recording at The Roost Club. The music flows, as you expect live music to, but the sound quality is a little too close to cinema Pathe News soundtrack: boxed in, with compressed dynamic range.

The series title “The Immortal Charlie Parker” echos the story told, that after Parker’s death in 1955, grafitti went up over New York proclaiming “Bird Lives!”. He certainly does, in these recordings. Better, he flies.

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3 thoughts on “Four Charlies, The Immortal…series (UK London,1958)

  1. The only Parker material I have, on CD of course, is all from his Dial and Savoy period and to a certain extent from his Verve era. I also have a seven CD box; a shady pressing from Italian descent, but thankfully with a great audio quality and that’s about it. I love Parker’s material, but if I had to make a choice then I’d keep his Dial and Savoy recordings. I like those the best. The recordings I absolutely cannot listen to are the ones “with strings”… Yuck! 😉

  2. These are the best recordings in all Parker output.
    You can divide his work into three periods: Dial, Savoy, Verve (Mercury+Clef). Once I looked for every alternate I could get, now I’m bored with them. When you have a good master it’s ok. Anyway I have vinyl and digital of almost everything Parker recorded, at least in a studio (live recordings are rarely well recorded). The ones I love best are the the four Savoy 10″ volumes, those with the blank back. Short but lighting: Parker really changed Music.

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