Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bird and Herd

In 1951, Charlie Parker was in trouble. He had been in trouble for long before and quite a while after that particular date, but 1951 saw a shift in the way drug scene was exposed in the press and also in the way it was handled by the FBI. Though Parker wasn't unfamiliar with the word "trouble", this time a nation-wide prosecution of celebrity drug addicts had made things tough for him. In the summer, Parker had played at Birdland with Machito, a gig which happened to be his last New York performance in nearly 15 months. Soon after, for some obscure drug charges, his "cabaret license" (license for performing music in the premises in which alcohol is served) was revoked. He was jobless.

Charlie Parker's saxophone case

His manager, trying to keep him busy, send Parker on the road, where he could still play without a license. Being on the road meant that he needed to be part of an already touring group. That's when Bird was united with Woody Herman's Big Band - the Third Herd edition.

The band visited Parker's hometown, Kansas City in July, where towards the end of the year, and after the stint with Herman, became the bop idol's chosen resident. The return to hometown was marked by visiting old friends and all the things Parker had left behind before becoming the indisputable leader of the new music scene in New York City. He was also frequenting some clubs, especially Tutty Clarkins's. But before the year was over, Parker had to fled KC, too, in order to avoid being busted by local authorities, as if a gangster was on the run.

The Bird's last stop: The Stanhope Apartment Hotel where Parker died
Back to "Bird with the Herd", on July 22, 1951, Charlie Parker and Woody Herman gave a concert at Kansas City's Municipal Arena, a memorable night which became even more memorable when it was recorded and bootlegged ever since.

This brilliant date features some of the great talent in Herman's orchestra of the period, such as Urbie Green, Bill Perkins, and Dave McKenna.

You can listen to the concert on its entirety here. The line up and track list are added below the video.

Charlie Parker would have been 94 on Friday, August 29, 2014.

  1. You Go To My Head
  2. Leo The Lion I
  3. Cuban Holiday
  4. The Nearness Of You
  5. Lemon Drop
  6. The Goof And I
  7. Laura
  8. Four Brothers
  9. Leo The Lion II
Roy Caton, Don Fagerquist, Johnny Macombe, Doug Mettome (tp); Jerry Dorn, Urbie Green, Fred Lewis (tb); Dick Hafer, Bill Perkins, Kenny Pinson (ts); Sam Staff (bars); Charlie Parker (as); Woody Herman (as, cl, cond); Dave McKenna (p); Lawrence “Red” Wooten (b); Sonny Igoe (d).


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