EXTRA UPDATE: BIRD ‘n’ DIZ, Or: Why it didn’t work no more. — Two ‘Live’ Sets from New York’s Carnegie Hall (1952) & from Portland’s Civic Auditorium (1954)

This is an extra update to my article from November 17 on Lee Konitz’s brilliant solo features with Stan Kenton.

Two tracks – the 2nd “Lover Man” & “In Lighter Vein” – have been taken from the pictured LP which features also the very last encounter of Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie on February 25, 1954.

No, Bird ‘n’ Diz unfortunately didn’t perform as a unit. Each of the once so fabulously interacting “stars of bop” got his own separate set of numbers, backed by Stan Kenton’s Orchestra.

Much has been said about their initial mutual understanding when they first met in Earl Hines’ Orchestra in 1942 (“Bird is the other half of my heartbeat”).

Many anecdotes can be read about their hilarious bebop-raids on various jazz clubs at New York’s 52nd Street, and how their friendship eventually broke up bit by bit over the years because of Parker’s unreliabilities, and Gillespie’s musical clownery.

It’s been written that they hadn’t spoken for years until their last real getting-together as a quintet, which took place at Toronto’s ‘Massey Hall’ on May 15, 1953 (there will be a big 60th-anniversary celebration next year …and not only at this blog; promised!).

The growing hostility between the two “giants of modern jazz” can be almost physically experienced while listening to their last, musically quite disastrous appearance at ‘Carnegie Hall’ on November 14, 1952.

All of a sudden, everything is in danger of falling apart; the irresistible unison lines which once sounded as blown by one man, Bird’s inventive contrapuntal 2nd voices, or the big-band-like codas of the famous bebop quintet from 1945: All that doesn’t seem to work right anymore. 

Bebop’s heartbeat was out of time, and, as we know now: Forever.

*) Scroll down to my addition on the bottom of the article. 

Bird & Diz at ‘Carnegie Hall’ (1952)

Bird & Diz at Carnegie Hall, 1947

1. – Introduction by Bob Garrity:

“And I know that you’ll enjoy Candido on conga, and bonga; and the string section… We got more comin’, right now.

There’s more coming. We’re gonna get, gonna get a little sort of a session goin’ here, a bit of a session, a session that will feature the rhythm section — that’s with Walter Bishop, Walter Yost, Roy Haynes, Charlie Parker on alto, Candido on the conga, and on trumpet, and on trumpet, the young man named Dizzy Gillespie, doing ‘A Night in Tunisia’…”

2. – A Night in Tunisia
3. – 52nd Street Theme

Bird & Diz at Carnegie Hall, 1947

These two jam session numbers followed two excellent, though quite rhapsodic Charlie-Parker-with-Strings sets. It sounds odd, but Dizzy seems to be intimidated by a very inspired playing, sparkling Bird whose ideas are gushing out of his alto like a never ending ice-cold stream of crystal clear mountain water.

I would even dare to say that this rendition of “A Night In Tunisia” contains the most uninspired solo ever played by its composer.

Parker’s sheer brilliance at the super-speedy “52nd Street Theme” is so horrifying that the overwhelmed band turns the beat around, so that Bird is forced to quote the melody for cueing them in again.

Dizzy, then known as a technically perfect trumpeter (except for his cheeks), the bugler who made “Little Jazz” Roy Eldridge cry out loudly, he can’t even master Monk’s famous anthem anymore.

Bird & Diz with Stan Kenton & His Orchestra, Civic Auditorium, Portland (1954)

Introduction by Stan Kenton:

“Here now is one of the giants of this era in jazz, a guy that’s done much to influence the growth of it, in fact the conception outlook (?) of his alto saxophone, Charlie Parker…”

1. – Night and Day (Bird; arr. Joe Lipman)
2. – On The Alamo (Diz; arr. Johnny Richards)
3. – Ooh-Shoobie-Doo-Be (Diz)
4. – My Funny Valentine (Bird; arr. Bill Holman)
5. – Cherokee (Bird; arr. Bill Holman)
6. – Manteca (Diz; comp./ arr. by Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie & Gil Fuller)

Although Bird appears to be weary and burned-out, he is still capable to execute stirring melodic lines (“Night And Day”, at 2:29; I never liked that chart because of its hysterically over-scored sections).

Charlie sounds like someone who is half asleep but suddenly wakes up, being fully aware of his surroundings.

“My Funny Valentine” is a flawless interpretation. One last gasp of a once so indestructible, sovereign and versatile improvisor.

On “Cherokee” (own quote):

A tragic moment is his very last recording of “Cherokee” (with Stan Kenton) when he played the melody all of a sudden, probably just for getting some energy from the audience who recognized the tune and subsequently applauded, as all US-American audiences do it at the point they’d recognize a popular theme. Doesn’t he sound so awfully tired, and exhausted?

It’s sad, but at the same time also very moving. These performances represent (among a few other ‘live’ & studio recordings in 1954) the last sparks of a musical genius. They have to get heard, because they demonstrate how a great creative mind prevails over all physical pains.

Dizzy plays perfect. Listen to his great cadenza at “On The Alamo”! — “Manteca” is certainly the absolute highpoint, and a worthy finale of this dramatic set.

Blog owner’s note: Don’t miss Diz’s quote of “Hound Dog” at 6:54. 😉

— Personnel:

Charlie Parker (as) & Dizzy Gillespie (tp, voc), backed by Sam Noto, Vic Minichelli, Buddy Childers, Don Smith, Stu Williamson (tp) Milt Gold, Joe Ciavardone, Bob Fitzpatrick, Frank Rosolino (tb) George Roberts (b-tb) Charlie Mariano & Dave Schildkraut (as) Mike Ciccheti & Bill Perkins (ts) Tony Ferina (bs) Bob Lesher (g) Don Bagley (b) Stan Levey (d) Stan Kenton (arr, cond).

Note: Bird Box includes a brief closing announcement by Kenton, “Charlie Parker! Charlie…”

P.S. — Although the liners below (click to enlarge) suggest the order of Bird’s & Diz’s numbers as the one I’ve eventually chosen, it may have been that each soloist has performed two separate sets à three tunes.

My special thanks goes to Peter Losin whose detailed Charlie Parker Discography is a horn of plenty. The quotes and the last note have been “stolen” from there.

*) Blog owner’s addition: When you finished reading, feel free to listen to their splendid set from Carnegie Hall, 1947: HERE — It can be purchased @anazoom, or somewhere else on the world boppin’ web 😉

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