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Ken Burns Jazz

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 7, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Sixteen Songs Including "Hot House," "Ko-Ko," "Ornithology," "Scrapple from Apple" and "Just Friends."

Amazon.com

Charlie Parker is one of the legendary figures of jazz, a musician whose troubled life and creative genius have inspired works like Clint Eastwood's film Bird. As this collection demonstrates, though, the legend could never be larger than the art. Parker was simply one of the two or three greatest improvisers ever to play jazz. He created solos of unmatched harmonic and rhythmic subtlety at tempos few musicians could even negotiate. This selection provides a unique single-CD introduction to Parker's work, touching on his earliest recordings with the blues-based Kansas City band of Jay McShann and the early collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie that marked the dawn of bop. The period of Parker's greatest creativity was brief, and it spanned several record companies--Savoy, Dial, and Verve--all of them represented here. Among the masterpieces are the slow blues of "Parker's Mood" and the stunning "Just Friends," with Parker's liquid alto cascading brilliantly over a small string section. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 7, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B000050I3S
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,744 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph D. Martin on January 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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!
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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