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As a smooth jazz journalist, I sincerely support the smooth jazz genre, as I adore the sound and recognize the diligence and hard work artists and musicians place into their craft.

  sheila e ross

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Jazz Reviews on JazzNet247 Radio Europe

Artist : Charlie Parker

Album : Now's The Time

Year : 1957

Label : Verve

charlie parker

: Charlie Parker : Saxophone | Al Haig : Piano | Percy Heath & Teddy Kotick : Bass | Max Roach : Drums

Charles Parker Jr was born in 1920 in Kansas City to Charles Parker and Adelaide Bailey and attended Lincoln High School for a brief time before leaving to persue his musical career. In 1935 he met his first wife Rebecca Ruffin.

Parker practiced up to 15 hours per day to master improvisation and the skillset that was to develop into an innovative style known as Bebop or Modern Jazz as it was known at that time.

He was known as 'Bird' or 'Yardbird' and nobody quite knows why, but this nickname actually described perfectly how his improvisations would suddenly soar away to a musical and technical height that nobody else could reach.

Bird took jazz at his time to a different level musically but personally he was on a path of self destruction through drug and alcohol abuse and a coroner who examined him for an autopsy mistakenly estimated his age at between 50 and 60 years of age, Bird was just 34 when he passed.

He died whilst watching The Dorsey Brother's Show in the suite of his friend and supporter Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York on March 12th 1955. The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but he also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack.

However in 1952-53 at the peak of his creative and spectacular performing he recorded 'Now's The Time' for Verve and he showcases beautifully an artist who represented absolute genius and complete dissapation.

The album is one of a series of recordings that was released after his death and aimed at bringing the Genius Of Parker to a wider audience.

Recorded between December 1952 and July 1953 Bird was going through a particularly tormented phase of his life when the New York authorities revoked his cabaret card which alienated him from most of the jazz clubs, he endured two failed suicide attempts after the premature death of his daughter Pree to Chan Richardson and went into a deep depression period.

One of the intentions of these Verve recordings, and in particular, the inclusion of 'Alternative Takes' highlighted that improvisations could vary dramatically over the same tune and indeed on the same session and yet be sublimely fresh and creative with each take.

Parker had stopped playing with his regular band who consisted of Red Rodney on trumpet, Al Haig on piano, Tommy Potter on bass and Roy Haynes on drums and joining him on Session 1 on the 30th December 1952 were Hank Jones on piano, Teddy Kotick on bass and Max Roach on drums. The second session was recorded on the 28th July 1953 when Al Haig returned on piano, Percy Heath was on bass and Max Roach returned on drums.

Most of what we hear from Parker on 'Now's The Time' with these two ensembles is a swansong of classic bebop and one of the best testaments to the huge talent of one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.

As for the selections on the album Norman Granz, who was to become the head of Verve, quickly assembled the musicians at the Fulton Recording Studios in New York. The opening track 'The Song For You' was formally a movie tune from Music In The Air sang by Mario Lanza, but Bird transformed it into a bebop blaze where he makes the most of the chord changes. In these days tracks were around 3 minutes in length so solos were rapid from Parker and Jones.

However listeners will be pleased to know that not all of the tracks are played in the fast lane and 'Laird Baird' and 'Cosmic Rays' offer a more relaxed style of playing. Hank Jones plays a wonderful solo on the remaining track on Side 1 called 'Kim' when another band member can be heard offering an enthusiastic 'Yeah' to the merits of the keysman.

The second side of the album was recorded seven months later and Parker's life had taken a downturn with the death of his daughter and the separation from his wife Chan Richardson. This was to be one of the last appearances by him in a recording studio.

The original LP had three takes on the track 'Chi Chi', each with three different Bird solos, but all three full of tension and drama.

One of the surprises on the album was the standard 'I Remember You' written by Johhny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger in 1941 which yielded a medium tempo track with the sax feeding off the drummer's rhythms. The album's title track 'Now's The Time' is a classic 12 bar blues written by Parker in 1945 and features a repeated riff and one which developed into the rhythm and blues hit 'The Hucklebuck'.

Last but not least on the album is a version of 'Confirmation ' which was one of Bird's most loved and best known tunes, Written in 1946 the melody arrangment is over the common AABA form, but the song has a complex theme which Parker played effortlessly as its chord changes are difficult to play over. As always on this tune Parker's solos show astonishing control and his melodic line soars over the complex harmonies using breathtaking rhythms. This Bird will soar forever in my life.  ^

Review by Wes George
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Similar Artists -
Ben Webster, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Colman Hawkins, Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz

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