question for Charlie Parker fans

I’m looking to add a Charlie Parker record to my Jazz collection. I already have The Essential Charlie Parker, and Diz ‘N Bird at Carnegie Hall.

Anyone have a suggestion? Bonus points if I can get it on iTunes Music Store, for instant gratificiation.

29 thoughts on “question for Charlie Parker fans”

  1. I’m clueless on the music. I am posting because I’m reading your book “Just A Geek” and it is so awesome! I can relate to so many points that you make and feel so much like I know you from what you’ve shared.
    Thanks so much for writing it.
    You are one awesome guy! And Anne is just as lucky ot have you, as you are to have her. You say she makes you want to be a better person. Reading your book and getting to know you, makes me want to be a better person! If no one ever remembers you for Star Trek, TGN, fuck em.. William Fucking Shatner too (I laugh every time I read that, cuz I’ve heard more than once about his “attitude”)… you are a great guy and that’s what counts!

  2. Oh! and when you shared about going in your room and sobbing. I cried as I read that. Yay for your mom telling you to do that.. and good for you, for doing it. I’ve been there !!

  3. The Verve label puts out terrific collections of classic Jazz artists — including Charlie Parker. I almost always encourage people who are putting together a collection to start there, then work their way outwards. Verve puts together classy packages that cover a fairly broad range of the artist’s material (provided they were on their label when they did so — with Verve, chances are good that there are some real nuggets in their archives).
    Happy Hunting, my friend.

  4. I’d have to agree with mhelmore that “With Strings” is a really good album…but if you are looking for more of the crazy be-bop stuff check out “Live at Massey Hall.”
    Unfortunately that isn’t on iTunes, that is a link to Amazon…but it is one of my all time favorite Bird albums. It also includes Dizzy, Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach all in one group. It has been often called the great live be-bop recording ever. Trust me, it is good.
    Unfortuantely iTunes doesn’t really have the “good” Parker albums online. Oh well, I hope this helps…it is a record of a bunch of tracks that Miles Davis and Parker did together. It is not near as high energy as Massey Hall, but it is a good album.
    “With Strings” is much more subdued and chilled out, but nonetheless a great album and a wonderful musical experiment. Here is the link for it:
    Hope that helps.

  5. I’d recommend “One Night at Birdland” — he’s playing with Bud Powell, Art Blakey, and Fats Navarro, somewhere around 1950.
    Absolutely great album, afraid that I don’t have iTunes access at the moment so I can’t confirm whether it’s available on iTunes.
    – Whit

  6. “Bird & Pres,” a 1940s-era mix of swing and bop. It’s not classic Bird, but it gives you a nice insight of where he came from, and it’s all the more entertaining when you know how his sound evolved.
    If you haven’t already heard him, check out Art Pepper, a name well-known in some circles, but a secret to most casual jazz fans. I’d start with “Surf Ride,” but others would tell you to check out “Live at the Village Vanguard.”

  7. Hey Willy,
    I’m a former professional saxophonist who has spent about a billion hours playing Bird’s solos out of the famous Omnibook.
    I recommend trying to find a recording of his extended solos, preferably something live. Look for something with tracks over 5 or 6 minutes.
    My favorite probably is Live at Massey Hall (aka Jazz at Massey Hall) with Dizzy and Bud Powell. It is a 100% classic.

  8. Wil,
    I bought Bird: The Original recordings of Charlie Parker on Verve when I was 14 years old. The album really affected me. I was already playing saxophone, and upon hearing that album I immersed myself in jazz. 16 years later, I’m still going. However, that album has many tunes in common with the Essential Charlie Parker. If you want something that swings really hard, and has some extended solos, I too would recommend Jazz at Massey Hall. Dizzy is absolutely incredible, plus it has probably the best bop rhythm section ever assembled. Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Here’s the rub…I don’t think you can get it on iTunes. iTunes does have 61 albums, but almost all are compilations. Uber-lame. Try the Complete Live Savoy Recordings (on iTunes.) Some really nice extended improvisations, although the sound quality can be sketchy on some cuts. It contains some of the most creative and fun soloing that I have heard from Bird.
    Really enjoyed playing in the tourney last night, even if we did have to chop a pot with JJ.

  9. I’d recommend “My Favorite Things”, if only for that single track. I’ve always loved his rendition of that song. I recall the rest of the album is great too, but it’s been a while since I’ve listened to it.

  10. Yeah, the Jazz at Massey Hall concert is a MUST have, Wil. I like the recently remastered “Complete Jazz At Massey Hall”
    There were a couple versions of the Dial Masters in the last decade. Those are great stuff. I think there’s like a complete four disc and a one or two disc version or something like that. They’re called the Complete Dial Sessions or something similar.
    I happen to have a copy of the 10 disc set The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve. It’s got all the essentials on it and is one of those endlessly rewarding listens if you have the time. There’s always so much to hear.
    With Strings is a great album and up there on the must have list. Bird & Diz is great also plus you get a good introduction to Diz through it.
    His stuff is pretty much all on Savoy, Verve and Dial. You might find single label collections and original albums more coherent than some best of collections. Beware of all the lousy public domain and foreign discs though. They’re usually not worth anyone’s time. Enjoy Wil!!

  11. As far as I am concerned any recording of the old Yardbird is worth having. If you are a diehard Charlie Parker fan you might want to invest in some unusual recordings made by Dean Benedetti out in LA and NYC back in the 1940s. He stuck a mic in front of Bird and switched it on when Charlie was doing his solos. So the recordings are basically just Charlie and a bit of percussion and bass you can pick up behind him. Choppy? Yes, but Bird at his best, though recording quality does vary. I said earlier, “invest” because the set costs about $115.00. But it is Charlie Parker and something unusual. Check out Mosaic Records. You might also look for Charlie Parker: The Complete Birth of the Bebop; Charlie Parker – The Complete Savoy Studio Sessions; Charlie Parker – Bird on 52nd Street; and The Genius of Charlie Parker. I have no clue if any of these are available to download. I prefer having the vinyl. One thing you might want to do is go to Border’s or B&N and get yourself a big cuppa coffee, sit down with the latest copy of The Absolute Sound and look towards the back of the issue at all the new releases in vinyl and CD to see if their are any Charlie Parker albums available.

  12. If you can handle old, scratchy recordings, Charlie Parker & Dizzie Gilespie’s “Bird meets Diz” has some good playing. It’s a compilation of stuff they did together between 1943 and 1952, so it’ not particularly hi-fi.

  13. My friend Greg’s dad has some suggestions, which he’s asked me to pass on:
    All he needs is four recordings that will cover all of the aspects of Bird’s life…
    1) “Bird Of Paradise” (his adaptation of “All The Things You Are”) recorded with Miles Davis providing support.
    2) “Loverman” recorded on DIAL: records in the early 50s during one of Bird’s forays into California. This was the low point in his life. The piano plays a short intro. Bird is in a stupor and doesn’t hear his entry notes. The piano plays (very obviously) the first four notes of the melody. They register on Bird and he enters playing a really sad chorus. He collapses and the recording executive has him rushed him to the state hospital in Camarillo. The authorities confine him and, in effect, he goes thru rehab.
    3) Some months later he talks his way out (and he is “clean”). He records a medium-uptempo original called “Relaxin’ At Camarillo”. It is immediately evident that this is a happy, creative Bird! The rest of his life goes downhill again and he dies in hus mid-thirties.
    4) To be confronted with Bird’s unbelieveable technique (he scared most musicians) and creative powers one only needs his recording of “KOKO” (based upon the chord changes to “Cherokee”). He is given support by Dizzy.
    Hope this helps.

  14. I didn’t read all the other replies, but after looking at iTunes, I’d recommend the “Complete Savoy and Dial” if you want to spend the money. If not, get the “Best of Savoy” collection. I am not a fan of “best of’s”, or “essentials” due to the fact that I’m a hopeless archivist. To each his own.
    The Carnegie is a great album (which you already have), and I do suggest reading a good biography of Parker and also Dizzy’s book. Wow, what creative nuts these guys were. I love it.

  15. Hi Wil –
    First-time poster, relatively long-time fan of your more youthful work and new to your more recent.
    Not sure you’ll read this one over given the lateness of its reply, but I’m a jazz historian by trade. Massey, Bird & Diz, and Strings are all musts (On Massey, Bird actually plays a plastic horn after forgetting his own. It’s truly amazing how he still manages the sound he does.) One album not mentioned, but seldom known, is “Early Bird.” It contains his work with a number of important transitional figures between swing and bebop (before the 1942 recording ban) and offers a fascinating glimpse into his beginnings — a variety you just don’t get with his sound after he really begins to make it. I doubt you’ll find it online (or even in the stores), but you should find it at any good sized public library with a decent CD collection. That’s where I found it, anyway.
    For what it’s worth, Bird said that the “Lover Man” recording (referenced above) should be “stomped into the ground.” It’s interesting to hear what of his playing style cuts through his haze, but little more. Of course, many unknowing Parker fans memorized the solo dutifully as with any other, much to Bird’s chagrin.

  16. Lots of folks who forgot more about jazz in the last 4 minutes than I’ll ever know have supplied you with advice, so I’ll pass. I did want to thank you though…for whatever reason, your post reminded me that I hadn’t listened to COltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ in too long, and it’s playing right now, thanks to you.

  17. FWIW, if you want a “desert island disk”, I think the single best Charlie Parker overview CD is the Verve Jazz Masters 15: Charlier Parker. It’s got some great cuts.
    One of my favorites is the latin-based Mango Mangue.
    If you like cheap box sets (and who doesn’t?), I like Charlie Parker: A Studio Chronicle. It’s a box set imported from England. 5 CDs, 125 tracks, and $26 from It covers his whole career, from an unknown sax soloist in 1940 to the peak of his powers.

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