Selection: Ko Ko
Ko Ko – Short Take #1 (0:40)
Ko Ko – Orig Take #2 (2:50)
NEW!! courtesy of LJC poster FelixStrange – 78 master Ko Ko – mindblowin’!
Ko Ko Savoy 78rpm Charlie Parkers Bebop Boys: (FLAC by FelixStrange, conversion to MP3 160kbs by LJC to meet Wordpress audioplayer restrictions)
“78s are usually a big step down in sound quality from LPs to say the least, but there’s something riveting about hearing Bird’s alto pouring from an original ’46 Dial pressing with “Released by Tempo Music Shop, Hollywood Calif.” across the bottom.
Back then, bop was still an underground revolution. It was an enigma to most, strange and esoteric to the uninitiated. It was still a couple of years until the endless cliches of Charlie Parker imitators were flowing out the doors of every night club in every American city and Diz’s beret and goatee were co-opted as dismissive shorthand by the media. These small shellac discs were bold artistic manifestos which remain without parallel in American art.”
Charlie Parker’s Reboppers: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie (tpt, p), Sadik Hakim [Argonne Thornton] (p), Dillon “Curley” Russell (b) Max Roach (d) Recorded November 26, 1945, WOR Studios, Broadway, New York City.
Music: ‘There are only two forms of jazz: before Parker and after Parker!’
As the London Jazz Festival moves into full swing, one of the more interesting features this year are a couple of guest lectures on Charlie Parker. Taking the hint, the rival LondonJazzCollector Festival segues in with a special look at a Charlie Parker record that popped up in a London record store this week. It has more than a few scratches but a 1945 recording is not the full audiophile shilling and it is of more than enough historical interest to ignore a few clicks.
Charlie Parker compilations are ten a penny, but this was one mighty historical session, captured like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, sixteen takes including false starts and abrupt cuts, studio banter, with a sense of spending an afternoon on the studio with the grand men of Bop. You can sense the musicians beginning to warm up across the three hour session, and finally it’s hot hot hot and swings like hell. By the end of the record side two, a towering achievement – a 2 minute 50 seconds take of Ko Ko, in which all wheels remain firmly on the trolley, no one trips up, and you are reminded – if a reminder was needed – of the genius that is Charlie Parker in full flow.
For some reason I had always thought these great musicians, being great and able to improvise, just arrived, recorded one take and that was it, in the can. In reality, getting to the final masterpiece involved many takes, getting that final three minute take right.
It was also a shock to read in print the liner notes by John Mehegan (himself a jazz pianist) assessing the young Miles Davis contribution as “several bad goofs by Miles on head… no ideas… totally unswinging“. See what you think:
Now’s The Time – Orig. Take #4 (3:15)
Now compare – is this the same trumpeter (on mute) – Dizz or Miles?
Thriving from a Riff – Orig.Take #3 (3:00)
Controversy Alert! (Lifted direct from Wiki, regarding The Ko Ko Session)
“John Mehegan’s “Special Notes and Commentary” to the original LP release (Savoy MG-12079) are the source of much confusion about this date. He claims, for example that Bud Powell is the pianist, when in fact Powell was states away recovering from a breakdown. And the Savoy notes also state, apropos of “Ko-Ko”
Thornton says he played piano during the intro and coda (while Dizzy played trumpet) and then moved over so that Dizzy could accompany Parker. Teddy Reig, who produced the recording session, says, “Dizzy plays trumpet on the opening and then goes to the piano and we put in the drum solo so Dizzy would have a chance to get back for the ending.”
Many discographies accept these claims — even Larry Koch writes, “Gillespie is the trumpet player on this first chorus, as the line proved a bit much for the young Miles” (Yardbird Suite, p. 73) — but Tommaso Urbano has patiently laid out the aural evidence, concluding that it is Davis, not Gillespie, playing trumpet on “Ko-Ko.” He also argues that, although Gillespie plays the piano introduction on take 1 of “Thriving on a Riff,” it is Argonne Thornton on the second and third take. See his excellect website, The Music of Miles.
Although Davis seems unsure of himself in places, his style and harmonic sense is already present — listen especially to his playing on “Now’s the Time” and “Thriving on a Riff.”
What I thought was just another Charlie Parker record turns out to be a major detective mystery. No-one is sure what they are talking about, not even agreeing who is playing. Having disposed of the Bud Powell body, it remains to be established, who is playing trumpet – is it Miles or is it Dizzy? And who is on the piano if not Bud?
One version of event was that ” Miles Davis froze up / started vomiting / disappeared, feeling he was unable to play Parker’s difficult patterns, which meant that Dizzy Gillespie had to double up instruments on one take, playing the intro on the trumpet and then dashing across the studio, during the recording, to accompany Parker on the piano”
The tape box is unhelpfully vague.
For more insight, enjoy this full-on forensic dissection of the Ko Ko session, with thirty four Quicktime snippets from six different recording sessions. (Warning: contains explicit references to “music”, sample: “The harmonic structure is a thirty two bars A-A-B-A, with the eight-bars A section in Bb major and the eight-bars bridge essentially made of a cycle of 7th dominant chords D7 | G7 | C7 | F7 falling to the next section Bbmaj.”
The more you dig, the more you find. Dig ?
MG 12079 comes with controversy fitted as standard: what is described by various sellers as a “rejected cover”. Rejected by whom?
I consider it a good judgement call rejecting the above cover, HOWEVER may be just may be it is the original 1956 cover, since it got as far as printing, even found its way into the collection of the legendary Leon Leavitt .
No doubt someone will leap up and denounce my copy as a “later issue”. I notice people do like doing that. Think you are so smart LJC eh, take that (biff) and that (boff). Well for the record, I prefer my cover, earlier or later, whatever
Vinyl: Savoy MG 12079
1945 recording re-mastered by van Gelder (RVG signature initials) vinyl 163gm – not deep groove – so suspicion again of being a slightly later pressing, as deep groove would be the norm in 1957.
Bearing in mind the musician attributions are contested. the liner notes are worth reading for the music critique alone. The reader is treated as a musical intellectual equal, in the same manner as some liner notes are written for listeners with an unhealthy interest in condenser microphones.
Contrast today’s New Music LPs with no information on the cover, or an anti-capitalist polemic (if present, show solidarity by stealing it)
Very daring, Savoy invite you to write to their A&R Director with any comments on the album.
Source: London record shop. I confess the attraction was the period cover – lovely 1957 solid card, laminated, and RVG in the runout, not something that you get with the legion of Parker reissues. The “originals” of Parker 1940 recordings are no doubt on 78’s, not something I propose to get into.
If you are in London today, you want to pay £10 or £20 for a seat, you can catch the actual Charlie Parker event at the London Jazz Festival.
LJC SPAM AWARDS
The vitally necessary spam filters on WordPress do unfortunately snag the occasional genuine post – WB’s observations on Mercury this morning was one – so I do quickly go through all the tedious merchant spam, some clearly originating from countries where English is not the first language.
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