Mr. Jazz Wax has a two-part conversation with Hal McKusick about Charlie Parker’s 1953 recording with Dave Lambert’s vocal group and a chamber ensemble put together by Gil Evans. McKusick played clarinet. The project turned out to be a bit of a mess but, as McKusick explains, not because of Parker.
Bird blew through everything. Every take was a beaut. The vocalists were trying to get it together, and Dave was struggling. He’d rehearse them the best he could in between takes to get them on track. Simplicity would have been better for Dave–a unison line with fewer singers rather than so many harmonies. It was too ambitious. The vocals wound up stepping all over Gil’s instrumental charts–but not Bird’s solos.
To read the whole thing, go here.
Mr. Jazz Wax, Marc Myers, recommends that his readers download the music
from i-Tunes. Some of us troglodytes still like CDs. You can find the issued, alternate and short takes–and there were a lot them–in this massive boxed set containing everything Bird recorded for Verve. For the completist or for someone who wants to know more about the latter days of Parker’s creative life, it’s a lovely way to spend a snowbound evening.
Make that several snowbound evenings.
Bill Kirchner says
As Marc noted, you can also download the entire 1953 Bird/Gil Evans/Dave Lambert session from the CD reissue Charlie Parker Big Band (Verve). In my liner notes for that 1999 CD, I made some of the same points about that session’s shortcomings. Too bad that a Gene Puerling with superior vocal-writing skills wasn’t available.