PREFACE & ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
My special thanks goes to Doug Ramsey for reminding me of Charlie Parker’s 92nd anniversary.
Since I’m not too strong with such dates, I appreciate Doug’s reminder, and will gladly take the opportunity for a repost of this little article on one of Bird’s happiest, at the same time most enigmatic, and most famous compositions.
Sincerely yours truly,
BIRD SAYS: “No! It’s ‘Klact-oveeders-tene’!”
…but only for the die-hard, mostly humorless, or fanatic Bird addicts, and followers:
This little essay is of course all in fun. Nevertheless could further reading damage your (narrow-minded) conception of (Bird’s) world.
Charlie Parker, and his life were not all tragic, nor was he a bebop desperado, or an uptight intellectual; no, he was a human being who loved to laugh, and to live, and to love.
You can study some of the more easily explainable reasons for his choice of titles at Marc Myers’ JazzWax once again, namely at the thread where jazz critic, and “ornithologist” Ira Gitler successfully has verified the origins of Bird’s often rather cryptic, and mysterious, sometimes just very comic titles.
Feel free to click on HERE
And so, we’ll all be fit to go on further now:
— Main Theme – Part ‘A-1’ —
As a German, and big Charlie Parker fan, I’m fully informed about the true meaning, and origin of one of Bird’s most beautiful compositions, commonly known as “Klact-Oveeseds-Tene” (misprinted on earlier releases as ‘Klact-Oveedseds-Tene’):
It is Charlie Parker’s onomatopoetic way of saying — and now, sisters & brothers, hold your hats: ‘Klatschen – Auf Wiederseh’n!’ — Which is indeed “a sound”:
Clapping – See you! —> Klatschen (Klact) Auf (o) Wie (wee) dersehn (seds-tene).
Here’s an excerpt from the liners to Vol. 5, “Bird On Dial” (SPOTLITE-LP 105). Please click to enlarge:
(Side-note: Ross Russell’s book is very subjective and filled with inaccuracies, as Dizzy stated himself in a German TV show, when he was asked about “Bird Lives” by Mr. George Gruntz, the famous Swiss jazz orchestra leader: “That book is full of lies! – It’s all lies in this book!” — He was obviously very angry.
Diz abruptly started to warm up a second later, and wasn’t available for any questions anymore. Hank Jones played the piano then, and yours truly had watched the whole show live (in real time!) on TV.
“Dizzy Gillespie in concert” — Moderation: George Gruntz — Stadthalle Leonberg, 1987″ — ZDF Jazz Club.
It’s unfortunate that Clint Eastwood’s film Bird (1988) was founded almost solely on Mr. Russell’s book.)
— Main Theme – Part ‘A-2’ —
Ken Vail is mentioning the theory of “Klact’s” highly probable origin in “Bird’s Diary” on page 33:
“Bird rarely bothered to name his compositions, but when Ross Russell later pressed for titles for this session Bird came up with an unexplained title for the second number which he wrote out on the back of a Three Deuces $2 minimum charge card – Klact-oveeseds-tene. Red Rodney maintains that Bird was dabbling with German. Klatschen – clap, applause; Auf wiederseh’n – goodbye.”
But there is more to that story:
— Main Theme – Part ‘B’ —
If you compare Bird’s handwritten title (and it’s a proven fact that he himself has written this with his own hand), if you compare this title and the letter “s” with his “r’s” on another handwritten document (a letter to Ross Russell) you will notice that the letter, of which generations of fans, and critics, and scientists have believed it would be an “s”, is in fact an “r”.
So, let’s take the “Klact” like in “Klatsch(en)” as a given truth, and concentrate on the remaining syllables “oveereds-tene”:
Auf Wieder… —> o-veered… — …seh’n —> …s-tene.
Now, speak it out loudly, and a bit diffidently: “KLACT-OVEEREDS-TENE”, and you will hear the same what Charlie Parker heard when a German was clapping his hands, and said ‘see you’:
“Klatsch(en) – Auf Wiedersehen!”
— Main Theme – Part ‘A-3’ —
Since some Anglo-American native speakers occasionally tend to scramble letters in German words:
“Oveered” would become “oveeder” which would so retransform to a completely logical “Auf Wieder…”
(Side-note: How often was my last name involved in this, and I had to read Mr. Liecht, instead of the correct “Leicht”?)
— Extro —
Both of Bird’s handwritten documents I am referring to can be compared here:
The only recorded takes of Klact-oveereds-tene (a.k.a. Klact-oveeseds-tene) can be heard here:
Klact-Oveereds-Tene x 2 (feel free to clickety-click on play, and both takes will play)
Personnel, location & date: Miles Davis (tp) Charlie Parker (as) Duke Jordan (p) Tommy Potter (b) Max Roach (d) – WOR Studios, NYC, November 4, 1947
P.S. — If you would enlarge the screenshot of Bird’s handwritten title, you could possibly see that he overwrote the last type (which was originally a small “n”) with a small “e”; also typical for English speaking to say rather “Auf Widdersenn”, and not like we Germans “Auf Wiedersehn“, the first and the last syllable spoken out longer.