Charlie Parker at Storyville
The set by Charlie Parker, at Storyville is a perfect example of bop or bebop.It fits almost all of the criteria we use to define bop.These criteria include, but are not limited to: fast tempo, display of instrumental virtuosity, complex melodies and harmonies, an unresolved character, highly syncopated and masterful improvisations. These were all shown throughout this set.
The compact disc I chose is actually a compilation of two different live sets 6 months apart.Both sets include Charlie Parker yet his accompaniment changes (see linear notes).Throughout this set it is obvious that Parker dominates.He can really make his horn sing.Even during the slow songs of this set the solos are packed full of notes.The tempo may be slow yet the soloist fills the spaces full of notes. Examples of these are “I’ll Walk Alone” and “Don’t Blame Me.”
A song from this set I especially like is the song “Cool Blues.”It is very complex yet fun to listen to. I love to hear Parker play his horn. He really is a master.This piece is in a 12 bar blues form.There is a short intro by Charlie Parker on the sax.Then Herb Pomeroy and Parker play once through the chorus.The trumpet and sax together here sound really fabulous.The two match each other with amazing accuracy.Following the chorus Charlie launches right into a solo.This solo shows Parker’s command of his instrument. He is able to pack his solos full of information.He is double-timing through most of the set.He slides up and down pitches, is all over the range of his horn and uses a stop time to build tension near the end of his solo.With the end of Parker’s solo, Pomeroy takes over and plays a solo on his trumpet.The notes Pomeroy plays strike me as intentional and deliberate.It seems that each note is very carefully placed and played.Following Pomeroy, Sir Charles Thompson plays a piano solo.After the piano solo Kenny Clarke trades 4’s with Pomeroy and Parker.Following this is twice through the chorus and . . . the crowd goes wild.
Along with the form, the instrumentation of this piece is also very representative of the era.Kenny Clarke on the drums keeps time on the ride cymbal while filling with his snare drum and toms.The Saxophone and trumpet being the leaders of the set are also representative of the instrumentation of the era.Near the end of the piece Clarke really struts his stuff while trading 4’s with Parker and Pomeroy.He adds a complexity to this music.I like to hear the drummer getting his chance.Jimmy Woode on bass also follows the standards of the day.He walks his bass to add a swinging feeling to the whole quintet.
Bop music of the late 40’s and early 50’s was an evolution of Jazz that I truly love.Swing is good for dancing and a lot of fun to listen to in that situation yet nothing compares to the solos of the Bop era.The criteria I have shown proves that this set is bop.This same criteria is what makes bop the best era of jazz. The complexity, the tempo, the amazing skill shown by bop musicians, and the proliferation of improvised solos all join together to make amazing music.
Charlie Parker at Storyville