The first sample, and one of his last recordings, is the song that probably influenced Charlie more than any and jamming on this tune led to the creation of songs like 'Koko' and 'Thriving on a Riff'. The song 'Cherokee' was written by Englishman Ray Noble, with a rather obscure, hardly ever used, lyric about a man falling in love with a “Sweet Indian Maiden”. It was while jamming on this tune in 1939 with Biddy Fleet that Charlie experienced his 'epiphany' described in the section called 'Adolescence'. This is with Stan Kenton in 1954....
You'll need Spotify for this, but it's worth getting, just to hear the last time Bird is recorded playing this tune. Recorded February 25th, 1954 with the Stan Kenton Big Band at the Civic Auditorium in Portland, Oregon. Bird flies into this, and shows such eye-watering dexterity, that it's difficult to believe this was recorded roughly a year before he died. Recorded privately, there are three released tracks from the concert, but there are more tracks, yet to be released.
Honey and Body
Sometimes referred to as 'Honey and Body', this is believed to be the first recording of Bird playing solo. An amateur recording of Bird in or around his late teens. Recorded by Clarence Davis a member of Tommy Douglas' band. Some estimate this may be as early as 1937 or 1938, but Bergman places it around 1940, based on Birds movements over that time. Why Bird recorded it is unknown, but you can hear he has developed a style all his own, and even if this is perhaps show-boating, it's a remarkable insight into his development.
1944 SEPT 15. WOR STUDIOS, NEW YORK, COMMERCIAL FOR SAVOY RECORDS
The Times Recorder,Ohio. 1946-10-19
Tiny Grimes Quintet: Tiny Grimes (g), Clyde Hart (p), Jimmy Butts (b), Doc West (d) and Charlie on Alto.
The first studio Parker following the 1942-44 recording ban, and the first small group studio recordings. Of this session, Scott DeVeaux in The Birth Of BeBop, University of California Press, 1997 p371, states: "Historians of bebop have often been discomfited by Parker's debut for Savoy in 15th September 1944. These recordngs serve as an embarrassing reminder that bebop was initially entangled in the mundane world of entertainment. Only two of the four tunes recorded on that day in the Nola Studios on 52nd and Broadway present Parker as we prefer to hear him - as the leader (in fact if not name) of a streamlined jam session ensemble."
However, Sutherland states: "...Parker achieves the alchemist's long standing dream of making gold out of lead in his solos, and generate controversy in the process."
1945 NOV 26. WOR STUDIOS, NEW YORK, COMMERCIAL FOR SAVOY RECORDS
Charlie Parker's Reboppers: Miles (tpt), Dizzy (tpt,p), Sadik [Argonne Thorton] Hakim (p), Curley Russell (b), Max Roach (d) and Charlie on alto.
Arguably Charlie's finest recording session, the first under his own name: Charlie Parker Re-Boppers or sometimes Bee-Boppers. There has been a lot of myth and fable about this session but all is made clear in the booklet insert belonging to Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy Sessions, 1978. Savoy 5500: "A number of misunderstandings about the KoKo date persist and this is the place to clarify the record. Documents from the Savoy files and the recollections of Teddy Reig, who produced this session, indicate the following. A standard three hour/four side session was scheduled for November 26, 1945, at the WOR studios in New York for which Parker would supply original compositions. A Union contract was arranged the preceding week and Parker; Miles Davis, trumpet; Bud Powell, piano; Curly Russell, bass; and Max Roach, drums were booked for the date.
On the 26th Reig went to Parker's apartment to bring Bird to WOR and was informed that Powell had gone with his mother to Philadelphia where she was buying a house. No need to worry, however; Dizzy Gillespie was present and introduced to Reig: "Here's your piano player". Parker also had contacted Argonne Thornton (later a.k.a. Sadik Hakim), who had played on Dexter Gordon's September date for Savoy, and asked that he appear at the studio.
Lubinsky and Reig were installed in the recording booth and Parker, Davis, Gillespie, Russell and Roach in the studio. It had been agreed that four sides would be two new Parker blues and two 'heads' on "I Got Rhythm" and "Cherokee" that were familiar to the musicians Bird had been working with at the time. The proceedings began with three rather awkward takes of a Parker blues, Billie’s Bounce, which, according to Thornton, in the February 1959 Jazz Review, had been composed that morning.
Unaware they were being recorded, the musicians momentarily shifted gears with an unscheduled warm-up on the chords of "Cherokee". Originally titled "Savoy Tea Party" in the Savoy files, this performance was issued as "Warming Up a Riff". Two more tries at "Billie's Bounce" produced an acceptable master take (take 5) of the first contracted side. Four takes of another Parker blues "Now's the Time" followed. At this point, Dizzy relinquished the piano to Thornton who had been observing from the sidelines. Three takes of "Thriving on a Riff" (the "I Got Rhythm" head, later called "Anthropology") were logged before the session was halted temporarily. All during the session thus far Parker was having some very audible mechanical problems with his instrument. Upon completion of take three of "Thriving", Bird left WOR to get his horn repaired.
Parker returned shortly with a functioning instrument, but in the meantime Miles had vanished. "Meandering", another unscheduled warm-up (on the chords of "Embraceable You") was performed with Dizzy back on the piano. Miles was still missing, so Dizzy enlisted on trumpet for the session's last scheduled number. Two takes were made, as represented in 4&5 ("KoKo" sections shown).
The exact personnel is problematic. Thornton says he played piano during the introduction and coda (while Dizzy played trumpet) and then moved over so that Dizzy could accompany Parker. Teddy Reig, on the other hand, recalls that Thornton did not play on this number and that Max Roach's drum solo was added to give Dizzy time to return from the piano at the end of Parker's solo to play trumpet in the closing coda. The musical testimony, however, contradicts both Thornton and Reig. There is no piano present during the introductions or coda of either take. Yet piano is played behind the sax-trumpet statement of the incomplete "Cherokee" them of take 1. On take 2 (as in take 1) the introduction concludes with an eight measure sax-trumpet phrase, but this time the "Cherokee" theme is omitted and the performance leads directly into Parker's solo, which is accompanied by piano on the very first beat of the measure 1." The booklet also shows a facsimile of the file list for the session listing the tracks:
1945 DEC 29. UNKNOWN RECORDING STUDIO, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, SLIM GAILLARD AND HIS ORCHESTRA, COMMERCIAL FOR BEL-TONE
A guest appearance by Bird on a recording for Slim Gaillard on Bel-Tone Reords, that promptly collapsed and the recordings were purchased by Majestic records. The 'inside' joke of having reed troubles relates to Bird's choice of reed, the difficulty others had playing Bird's saxophone and the state of his reed and saxophone on occasion!
Other sides recorded at the same session include: Flat Foot Floogie, Dizzy Boogie and Popity Pop
When Dizzy says he has to cut out to go to the Jubilee, he's referring to the booking they had that evening with the American Armed Forces Radio for a show called 'Jubilee'.
The Famous Alto Break & A Night in Tunisia
1946 MAR. 28. RADIO RECORDERS STUDIOS, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, COMMERCIAL FOR DIAL RECORDS
Charlie Parker Septet featuring Miles Davis tp, Lucky Thompson ts, Arvin Garrison g, Dodo Marmarosa p, Vic McMillan b, Roy Porter d.
It's not often a mistake is kept and then takes on a life of it's own, but this is what happened with the mistake on Night in Tunisia.
The mistake became known at the 'The Famous Alto Break' and was released as it's own track. It was the first take and apparently, when Bird launched into the break, Miles was so in awe of what Bird was doing that he missed his entrance and the take was wound up. Bird apparently said, that he couldn't make that again, and it took 4 more takes to get a version of he was happy with.
1946 JULY 29. C.P. MACGREGOR STUDIOS, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, CHARLIE PARKER QUINTET (EXCEPT ITEM 4 ISSUED AS HOWARD MCGHEE QUINTET), COMMERCIAL FOR DIAL
This track is from the infamous session where Parker, suffering from exhaustion and withdrawal, show's up at the studio with a large bottle of whiskey and has to be held up to the microphone to play. After the session, there was an 'incident' at his hotel, and he was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital for the next six months.
It became a popular recording, although Bird apparently never forgave Ross Russell for releasing it.