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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

ORNITHOLOGY Classic Recordings 1945-1947
Charlie Parker-Alto Saxophone with various personnel comprising : Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Howard McGhee-Trumpet; Lucky Thompson and Wardell Gray-Tenor Saxophone; Clyde Hart, Sadik Hakim, Dodo Marmarosa, Jimmy Bunn, Errol Garner, Bud Powell, John Lewis and Duke Jordan-Piano; Remo Palmieri, Arvin Garrison and Barney Kessel-Guitar; Slam Stewart, Curly Russell, Vic McMillan, Bob Kesterson, Red Callender, Tommy Potter and Al McKibbon- Bass; Cozy Cole, Roy Porter, Max Roach, Doc West, Don Lamond and Joe Harris- Drums; Earl Coleman- Vocal.

Recorded May 1945- November 1947 at various sessions in Hollywood and New York. Originally released on the Dial, Guild, Savoy and Black Deuce labels.



  1. Ornithology
2. A Night In Tunisia
3. Ko-Ko
4. Now's The Time
5. Donna Lee
6. Hot House
7. Moose The Mooche
8. Bird Of Paradise
9. Yardbird Suite
10. Lover Man
11. Scrapple From The Apple
12. Dewey Square
13. Don't Blame Me
14. Groovin' High
15. Dizzy Atmosphere
16. Relaxin' At Camarillo
17. Dark Shadows
18. Dexterity

The vast majority of these recordings were originally released on the Dial and Savoy labels. The earliest track, "Hot House" (which is based on the standard "What Is This Thing Called Love") was on the Guild label, while "Groovin' High" ("Whispering") and "Dizzy Atmosphere" ( "I Got Rhythm") come from the concert at Carnegie Hall which first appeared on the Black Deuce label.

The selections on this disc represent the pick of Parker's work from these years and should be regarded as essential listening for anyone interested in Be-Bop in its formative years. Some followers of the music might have other personal favourites from this period, but I feel that this is as good a compilation as is currently available.
Charlie Parker stands alone as the icon of this era. Other musicians (Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Christian etc) played substantial and often equal roles in the development of modern jazz, but it is "Bird" who has become the personification of this movement.By 1945 his style had reached maturity and all aspects of it can be heard in these selections. There is the up-tempo assuredness of "Ko-Ko" ( based on the notoriously difficult chord sequence of the Charlie Barnet hit "Cherokee") the blues drenched inflections of "Now's The Time"and the wonderful re-working of standards such as "Don't Blame Me", complete with melismatic double time runs.

The liner note refers to "Lover Man" as "almost incoherent" and "nightmarish" - Parker suffered a breakdown after this session and spent several months in Camarillo State Hospital as a consequence. He is said to have been disturbed and saddened by Ross Russell's decision to release the sides from this date ( Russell was the head of Dial Records ). However, there is still a stark beauty in Parker's playing on this title and it has become one of his most famous recordings ( the other titles including "Max Is Making Wax" and "The Gypsy" are far more disjointed and certainly less worth seeking out - virtually the only saving grace being the trumpet playing of Howard McGhee ).

Of the trumpet players featured here Gillespie and McGhee give the most satisfying performances. Miles Davis,at this time, lacked consistency and technical assurance - there are many examples of cracked notes and insecure passages as can be heard with careful listening on the theme of "Donna Lee" ( " Indiana" ).

The rhythm sections provide an interesting overview of the differing styles of the musicians at that time - from mainstream players such as Slam Stewart and Cozy Cole to the trendsetters such as Al McKibbon and Max Roach. There is an equal variety to be found amongst the pianists from the highly personal stylings of Errol Garner to the improvisatory genius of Bud Powell. Excellent moments can be heard from soloists on other instruments - notably Barney Kessel on guitar and Lucky Thompson and Wardell Gray on tenor saxophone.

This disc is highly recommended and really is a modern jazz essential as well as being great value for money!

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.


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