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Mark Stryker

Charlie Parker: One Night in Birdland

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Posted (edited)

I wonder if anyone can shed some light on some lingering questions about this well-known material that I'm referencing here under the title of the Columbia 2-LP set that came out in 1977.

First, the bassist and drummer. These tracks (well, all but a few)  are always credited to Curly Russell and Art Blakey, However, the usually reliable Bird scholar Carl Woideck has written that his ears tell him it's Roy Haynes drums  (and perhaps Tommy Potter on bass),It's the drum issue in which I'm most interested. I confess that I have sometimes questioned whether that was really Blakey on at least some tracks, because the drummer has more technique than I associate with Art. On the other hand, some tracks do sound like Blakey. (The performances of Embraceable You and a Cool Blues coupled to 52nd St. Theme are in fact usually credited to Walter Bishop Jr.,  Potter and Haynes, though the vocalist is sometimes cited as Chubby Newsome and sometimes Jimmy Scott.)

Second, the date for this recording is usually given as May or June 1950, but as others, including Ira Gitler, frequently noted, it's almost impossible to believe that Fats Navarro was playing so great so shortly before his death on Feb. 7. An earlier date in 1950 or l949 date would seem more probable.

One explanation for discrepancies would be that the performances don't come from just one night at Birdland but from multiple nights and maybe not necessarily all from Birdland, which opened on Dec. 15, 1949. One interesting bit of speculation backing this theory  is that Boris Rose was the known source of these tapes, but Rose typically recorded off the radio and none of the programs he relied upon ever broadcast this much material in a single night. 

So, can anyone ads some facts, enlightened speculation or fresh scholarship to help untangle all of this? 

 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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I think that this is still under debate.  I think it is clear that both Blakey and Haynes were present that night and may have alternated.  On my Cool Blue disc of the concert, the discographical information has Haynes playing on Embraceable You, Cool Blues, and one version of 52nd Street Theme and Blakey playing on the rest.  Walter Bishop and Tommy Potter also replace Bud Powell and Curley Russel on the tracks with Haynes.  

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these are the tracks that i can't seem to track down on vinyl preceding the Columbia set-  i am now on the lookout for a nice white label promo of the columbia set for the following tracks:

 


B1    Night In Tunisia    5:38


C1    Out Of Nowhere    6:20
C2    Little Willie Leaps / 52nd Street Theme    5:44

D1    I'll Remember April / 52nd Street Theme    9:23
D2    Embraceable You    6:20
 

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21 hours ago, John L said:

I think that this is still under debate.  I think it is clear that both Blakey and Haynes were present that night and may have alternated.  On my Cool Blue disc of the concert, the discographical information has Haynes playing on Embraceable You, Cool Blues, and one version of 52nd Street Theme and Blakey playing on the rest.  Walter Bishop and Tommy Potter also replace Bud Powell and Curley Russel on the tracks with Haynes.  

Bregman agrees in his notes to The Complete Bird at Birdland 1950-1951 set, though he suggests the dates is May 15/16. 

 

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Here's how Losin puts it (http://www.plosin.com/milesAhead/BirdSessions.aspx?s=500517):

Boris Rose lists the date as May 17, and most discographies place the tunes in May-June 1950, but they may be from much earlier. Navarro died of tuberculosis on July 7, and his playing on these titles is quite good, so the late date is unlikely. (Compare his playing here with that on the June 30 Birdland date with Miles Davis.) In the liner notes for Columbia LP 34808, Dan Morgenstern acknowledges this and writes that "Ira Gitler, who saw Fats at Birdland in 1950, recalls him as a shrunken, pitiful figure, racked by coughing and playing feebly. But available clues have been checked and rechecked, and June 30 is the date that comes up." (In another context, writing about Navarro, Gitler remarked, "I question the May 1950 dating of records made of his broadcasts from Café Society... His playing seems... too alive for the man who would be dead of tuberculosis on July 7" (Jazz Masters of the Forties, p. 101.)

In his notes to the Ember set Robert Bregman offers a date of May 15-16. The varied personnel does suggest a Monday night, which were jam session nights at Birdland.

In Yardbird Suite Larry Koch suggests that these tunes date from "the fall of 1949 or spring of 1950" (p. 191).

In Bird's Diary Ken Vail suggests that these titles were spread over a week:

  • May 17 (Wed): 52nd Street Theme, Wahoo, 'Round Midnight, This Time the Dream's on Me, Dizzy Atmosphere, Move, and 52nd Street Theme

  • May 18 (Thu; Bishop replaces Powell): 52nd Street Theme, A Night in Tunisia, The Street Beat, Out of Nowhere

  • May 20 (Sat; Powell back in group): Little Willie Leaps, 52nd Street Theme

  • May 21 (Sun): Ornithology, I'll Remember April, 52nd Street Theme, Embraceable You (Bishop replaces Powell)

  • May 23 (Tue): Lover Come Back to Me (see June-July 1950)

The Parker Quintet played several nights at Birdland beginning in February; in addition, various Miles Davis groups were booked at Birdland during these months, and both Navarro and the Bud Powell Trio were there during this period. So all the players were in the same place at the same time. Bishop and Haynes replace Powell and Blakey on "Cool Blues" and the final "52nd Street Theme."

Most of the tunes on the Columbia LP produced by Gary Giddins are clearly off-speed -- about a half step sharp, sometimes more. The Sony (J) CD reissue is also fast, but the versions on the Bird Box LPs and CDs play at the correct pitch.

Thanks to Robert Bregman and Leif Bo Petersen for help with this session.

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Thanks for raising the topic. I agree with you that the recordings would appear to be from multiple nights and (possibly) venues. The Miles Davis Birdland Jam Session from June 30 1950 (?) is somewhat similar, at least as far as dates are concerned. Both Miles and Fats are listed on trumpet on some tracks and as we know Fats died from TB on July 7, so the identity of listed      trumpeters soloing on some of the tracks is open to question.

 

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On 26.8.2020 at 6:27 AM, Quasimado said:

Thanks for raising the topic. I agree with you that the recordings would appear to be from multiple nights and (possibly) venues. The Miles Davis Birdland Jam Session from June 30 1950 (?) is somewhat similar, at least as far as dates are concerned. Both Miles and Fats are listed on trumpet on some tracks and as we know Fats died from TB on July 7, so the identity of listed      trumpeters soloing on some of the tracks is open to question.

 

The Miles Davis session from June 30, 1950 has the same recording Sound as the "Night at Birdland", so I Always thought that June 30 is the correct date. The bass and the drums (Curley Roussel and Art Blakey) Sound the same. 

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My understanding is that Monday night was jam session night at Birdland, and that these were regularly (?) broadcast, so it's quite possible that Blakey and Russell were caught on tape over several Monday nights. But for Fats, June 30 is a very late date, as he died from TB, a very debilitating disease, a week later. To make matters more complicated (for me) I feel that the first excellent trumpet solo on the "long" 52nd Street Theme (5:39) from the Miles Birdland Jam Session dated June 30 is in fact Fats, not Miles.

Essentially I find it hard to believe it is 1950 Miles when it sounds so much like great Fats :blink:.

However, my intuition is probably incorrect if the date of the session is actually June 30 ...

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17 hours ago, Quasimado said:

My understanding is that Monday night was jam session night at Birdland, and that these were regularly (?) broadcast, so it's quite possible that Blakey and Russell were caught on tape over several Monday nights. But for Fats, June 30 is a very late date, as he died from TB, a very debilitating disease, a week later. To make matters more complicated (for me) I feel that the first excellent trumpet solo on the "long" 52nd Street Theme (5:39) from the Miles Birdland Jam Session dated June 30 is in fact Fats, not Miles.

Essentially I find it hard to believe it is 1950 Miles when it sounds so much like great Fats :blink:.

However, my intuition is probably incorrect if the date of the session is actually June 30 ...

I have several live Recordings of Miles in the period from 1948-51 and Miles really played some fast bop trumpet on all those. 

If you listen to the 1949 Paris Recordings with Tadd Dameron , Miles is so fast and Plays in the high Register, and if you listen to the Metronome All Stars were you have Diz, Fats and Miles, they Sound very similar….

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2 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

If you listen to the 1949 Paris Recordings with Tadd Dameron , Miles is so fast and Plays in the high Register, and if you listen to the Metronome All Stars were you have Diz, Fats and Miles, they Sound very similar…. 

Miles certainly sounds excited on the Paris recordings with Tadd - maybe Juliette was waiting in the wings ;-)  but his playing doesn't have the elegance, form and balance of Fats, which the "slow"/ "long" 52nd St. Theme of June 30 has (to my ears).

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1 hour ago, Quasimado said:

Miles certainly sounds excited on the Paris recordings with Tadd - maybe Juliette was waiting in the wings ;-)  but his playing doesn't have the elegance, form and balance of Fats, which the "slow"/ "long" 52nd St. Theme of June 30 has (to my ears).

Yes, I agree with you

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Those 50's Birdland broadcasts are a mess date wise and personnel wise - and so much of the music (particularly that featuring Bird, Bud and Fats) is sublime. Questions remain ...:blink:

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I think at some point, the bezt/only answer is just that it happened. It realty happened.

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