77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2001
As a long-time lover of Bird, I've often felt frustrated that no single CD offered a good overview of Parker's music. Most of the existing "best of" compilations were ridiculously incomplete, typically drawing from only one of the many record companies Bird recorded for, and many were riddled with bootleg-quality live recordings. This one, at long last, offers the newcomer a fine overview of what Bird did, from the early breakthrough tracks with Dizzy Gillespie that defined bebop through his spectacular dates for the Dial and Savoy labels that produced mind-boggling classics like "Ko Ko" and "Ornithology," to a couple tracks from the later "Bird with Strings" album that was his greatest commercial success, this disc offers the best single introduction to Parker ever released. If, like me, you already own virtually everything the man recorded, you'll find yourself arguing with a few of the track selections (how could they leave off "Billie's Bounce" or "Mohawk"?), but those simply seeking an introduction to this music will find this hugely enjoyable, and will be given an accurate (if necessarily incomplete) portrait of the Bird. If you can only own one Parker CD, I would recommend this one without hesitation.
86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2001
I've already contributed a review, but I find myself unable to resist saying something in response to the people complaining about "sound quality." Apparently, some people approach these mid-'40s recordings the same way they do their Pink Floyd albums, hoping for a nice bong-hits-and-headphones experience and wind up complaining about "SQ" and asking whether they used the "original masters" in making it. They're just showing their own ignorance. These recordings were made before the advent of recording tape, so there are no "masters." The music was cut directly onto discs using the best technology of the time. There is inevitably a certain amount of surface noise, and most sound engineers agree that you can't really eliminate it without also eliminating the other sounds in the higher registers, such as the ride cymbals that are typically used to keep the beat on bebop records such as these. Now, it's true that these recordings do not have the pristine sound of modern standards, but it's also true that complaining about surface noise on a Charlie Parker recording and whining that it doesn't sound good on headphones is a little like wondering why they didn't shoot Citizen Kane in color and complaining that it doesn't contain enough special effects. In other words, don't buy this disc unless you're ready to get beyond the superficial aspects of musical consumerism and actually listen to the music.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2000
Unlike most of the other artists featured in the KEN BURNS JAZZ series, Charlie Parker's career was relatively brief (his most significant recordings cover about a decade prior to his death in 1955). However, the number of classic performances 'Bird' recorded in this short period exceeds that of most artists who lived longer lives and had lengthier careers.
The first track is an early example of Bird's one-of-a-kind approach to improvisation as a sideman, while the remainder of the disc hits some of the many high points Bird reached, primarily in jazz quintet settings recorded for Savoy, Dial, and Verve. Parker's sidemen included such fellow legends as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Though his repetoire almost always followed a blues or standard popular song format, the tunes--and especially Bird's solos within them--exhibit consistent variety and invention to keep most listeners from getting remotely bored, even when absorbed much larger helpings than this single CD.
There is one example of Bird with a small orchestrated accompiament (JUST FRIENDS), but this disc devotes most of its running time to presenting Bird in what few would argue was the best setting for his still-provocative solos: a combo format.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2001
The Charlie Parker catalog can be overwhelming. This great CD offers Parker's greatest recordings in his legendary career. I've heard a few complaints about the sound quality. Frankly, I think it adds charm to the recording. There is some surface noise, but it's not that bad. Some of the cuts sound like an old 78 from the 40's, but with modern presence. The surface noise adds a patina to the recording like age does to fine china or a coin or antique furniture. There are so many Parker CD's it can be confusing. Although, I once owned Yardbird Suite on Rhino, it was just a bit too much. It you don't have the time for 50 cuts of Parker, this is the logical choice. Also Recommended: Charlie Parker with strings. Parker changed the way people improvise and create in music. His innovation is now so common, it's like he invented breathing. Astonishing technical prowess, despite his inner demons and addictions. A god-given talent!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2001
Being a huge Charlie Parker fan, I was excited to find a CD with such a diverse cross-section of his excellent work. Although it is very difficult to distill Parker's music to fit onto a single CD, Ken Burns managed to capture the essence of his music better than any of the other "greatest hits" that I have heard. Unfortunately, the sound quality is dismal. If you want something to listen to in your car, this would be a worthwhile purchase. If you are going to be listening on a decent sound system, I'd recommend something with better remastering ( like "the Essential Charlie Parker." )
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2006
It would be a shame to go through life with only one CD of Charlie Parker music, but an even greater shame to own none. So if you're standing on the brink of deciding whether to buy this, get it! As of this writing it appears to be the single best and broadest overview of Parker's work available on a single disc. (Though if you want to spend a bit more, get the 4-disc set "Boss Bird" on Proper Records, here at Amazon).
This disc is a fine overview of Bird's career, going all the way back to his days with the Jay McShann in Kansas City and extending into the end of his career in the early 50's. It also contains one of the single most moving and poignant recordings in the history of jazz, "Lover Man," recorded in LA when he was so strung out on booze and drugs he coud hardly move, much less play.
There are some complaints here about sound quality; from what I can tell this CD is up to the standards of 40's and 50's jazz recordings -- this is what you get. If they apply more sound reduction, you end up losing the music.
Again, a great place to start.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2001
Once again, the Ken Burn's series has introduced me to a jazz genius. Of course I had heard of Parker before, but wasn't that familiar with his music. But this cd has left me wanting to hear more. The music on here spans the years 1942 through to 1953 and covers several record labels, unlike other "Best of" collections. While there is some surface noise, it's not as bad as some reviewers make out. There are others in the Ken Burn's series which are way worse...like the Billie Holiday and Lester Young ones for instance. The booklet contains some photos and an interesting essay about Parker. This is an album that all Parker fans should own, and is a terrific place to start for someone like me who wants to discover the genius of Charlie Parker.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2009
Charlie Parker was a master at the saxophone, and more importantly, a master of improvisation. 'Ken Burns JAZZ: The Definitive Charlie Parker' collects 16 Parker sides from various labels, including Savoy, Dial and Verve.
Alright look, in terms of years, this is about as comprehensive a Parker collection you can get on the market. We're talking about years, let's not forget. It spans 1941-1953, 12 years, practically his entire career. It includes a track from his days with the Jay McShann Big Band ('Sepian Bounce') and one of his early collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie ('Salt Peanuts').
But then we get into the real Bird sides. When I say real Bird sides, I mean the one where he was leader. There's 'Ornithology,' 'Anthropology,' 'Ko-Ko,' representing the early 1940s, of course, which are some of his most critically acclaimed sides.
Then we move into the latter 1940s where we get the stunning 'Loverman.' Parker was so drunk he had to be physically supported by the producer of this session. But even though he was drunk, this is one of the finest jazz recordings you'll find anywhere. Parker's sax is full of emotion. Parker re-recorded it for Verve in 1953, and while I appreciate and like that version, this is the version that you should hear first.
Parker was than sent to a mental hospital after many bizarre encounters and experiences, and he wrote 'Relaxin' At Camarillo' is about that experience. It may be instrumental, but it's great. The piano at the beginning is amazing, and Parker's playing is just superb as well.
After a cover of the standard 'Embraceable You' we move on to the Verve years. The Verve years are probably my favorite years of his career. The Verve years open on this compilation with 'Just Friends,' featuring an orchestra and string accompaniment. 'Star Eyes' features a young Miles Davis, who really shines here.
The last recording here is 'Confirmation,' recorded in 1953. Parker was almost two years away from death when this was recorded. But despite that, this is one of my favorite Parker recordings. It's good, and Parker proves why he's the master of improvisation here.
The thing that limits me from giving this disc five stars are two things. One, it's too short. 16 songs may look like a lot on paper, but this disc could be filled to capacity. It's not even an hour long. Yes, that's right. More Parker would be good. The 13-minute 'I Got Rhythm' would fit perfectly on this recording, and yet, it's nowhere to be found.
Another negative is the sound quality. Now I've heard all of these recordings from other sources, and it's safe to say I've heard them sound MUCH better than what's here.
Overall, if you are a newcomer to Bird's legendary music, this would be a great entry point. Now, it's not the only good entry point out there, but it's a great place to begin, nonetheless. 1941-1953 is twelve years, more than a decade, and that's the time period spanned on this short, less-than-an-hour (but just barely less) disc. However, if you are a Bird purist, than chances are you already own all of this material. And for the newcomer that's picky about sound, I advise you skip over this one.
Recommended to one who is just starting his/her Charlie "Bird" Parker collection and isn't terribly concerned about sound.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2005
Here's a good introduction to the music of the amazing Charlie Parker. It begins with a recording Parker made as a member of Jay McShann's orchestra then continues through his all-too-brief career with some essential recordings he made for Savoy, Dial and various labels produced by Norman Granz (which were later reissued on the Verve label).
No individual CD can contain all of Parker's most important recordings but this one scans The Bird's years as a recording artist better than any other single-CD collection.
If you're looking for one CD that will introduce you to the artistry of a true American musical genius, this is the one to get.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2007
Wonderful selection of tracks, but the reviewers who commented on the sound quality are correct, it's unbearable. LOUD hissing. I have 35 year old Parker LPs that sound better. I was swayed to buy it by the many positive reviews. I was wrong, the sound guys were right.