Ten CDs, 175 tracks and 625 minutes comprising Charlie Parker's complete recordings for the Verve label, recordings on which Parker-under the watchful eye of Verve impresario Norman Granz-grafted his bebop innovations on to Afro-Cuban motifs, classically-tinged pieces and even the ever-controversial string sections. The set features almost two hours of unreleased music, as well as live tracks with Ella Fitzgerald, a superlative supporting cast of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Lester Young, Max Roach and more, and a 24-page booklet. From the opening track, Sweet Georgia Brown , to the I Love Paris finale, a hugely influential and challenging body of work.
This 10-CD set collects all of Parker's recordings for Norman Granz's various labels, beginning with an isolated Jazz at the Philharmonic appearance in 1946. Parker recorded exclusively for Granz beginning in late 1948, and the relationship continued to his final studio session in 1954. While the most brilliant flowers of Parker's creativity bloomed before that contract began, this set documents in meticulous detail Bird's longest relationship with a single record company and a period in which he was the most influential musician in jazz. While labels such as Savoy and Dial had been limited to recording Parker in the small groups he worked with regularly, Granz's greater resources allowed Parker to undertake the more expansive projects he sought, such as the famous recordings with strings, heard here in their entirety. Granz also recorded Parker with many of the giants of the Swing Era who made up his roster, and there are performances with many of Parker's original influences, such as Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.
Some of Granz's inspirations were less appropriate, like burdening Parker and Dizzy Gillespie with the flamboyant Buddy Rich, but Parker even manages to sound fluent and amused on a confused arrangement of "In the Still of the Night" with reed parts by Gil Evans and voices arranged by Dave Lambert. He's more often heard in congenial small group settings that include Miles Davis, Hank Jones, and Max Roach, and there are plenty of moments when Parker is a match for even his own earlier recordings. The wealth of alternate takes and false starts provides an intimate and detailed portrait of Bird in the studio, and there's a brilliance to Parker's improvisations that makes every track of interest. --Stuart Broomer