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Ken Burns's Jazz: Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

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Album Review

With cooperation from the Verve and Columbia Legacy catalogs, the Ken Burns Jazz series on CD individually spotlights the musical excellence of 22 jazz originators whose careers and influence are explored in Burns' PBS documentary Jazz. Even though alto saxophonist Charlie Parker didn't record as much material as other legends in this series, it's still impossible on a single disc to achieve a thorough picture of Bird's influence. However, you can't go wrong with "Ko-Ko," "Ornithology," "Anthropology," "Now's the Time," "Lover Man," and "Yardbird Suite," all classic Parker mid- to late-'40s bebop sides on Savoy and Dial. Also highlighted are "Just Friends" from the controversial release with strings, and early performances as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's All Star Quintet and Jay McShann's Orchestra. While it's impossible to sum up the history of Parker on a single disc and aficionados will find nothing new, the highlights here keep the novice listener interested enough to continue searching out more material.

Biography

Born: August 29, 1920 in Kansas City, KS

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

One of a handful of musicians who can be said to have permanently changed jazz, Charlie Parker was arguably the greatest saxophonist of all time. He could play remarkably fast lines that, if slowed down to half speed, would reveal that every note made sense. "Bird," along with his contemporaries Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell, is considered a founder of bebop; in reality he was an intuitive player who simply was expressing himself. Rather than basing his improvisations closely on the melody as was...
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