Anthropology

Just to balance the books here’s a wonderful version of the classic bebop tune Anthropology, performed by Bud Powell who I mentioned in my previous post about Thelonious Monk.

This really is authentic bebop, with its complex yet propulsive drum patterns and jagged melodic lines characterized by unusual intervals and little punctuating tags at the end of each phrase in the solo. Also brilliant, but quite different to Monk, Bud Powell was very much a direct translation onto the keyboard of the saxophone and trumpet styles of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

The tune was written by them too, although it uses essentially the same chords as George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm. It  was a standard bebop procedure to write a new melodic line on top of an existing harmonic structure and give the result a new name. Jazz improvisation is always based on the harmonies (chord changes) rather than the tune, so this is a way to build new compositions quickly with the knowledge that the harmonic foundations would be sound. In the  40s there was a classic Charlie Parker recording session during which the band decided to do such a variation of the standard Cherokee (written by Ray Noble). In the middle of the performance they absent-mindedly played the Cherokee theme and there was a cry of anguish from the control room by the Producer who obviously hoped that if they stayed off the actual tune of Cherokee he wouldn’t have to pay composer’s royalties. So that take was abandoned, and they did another. The final version was called Koko and it’s one of the Charlie Parker classics. Many other classic bop tunes were made in this way, with different standard tunes underneath them. Necessity and budget restrictions are the mothers of invention.

Oh, and just listen to the fantastic double bass by the brilliant (and then very young) Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen who drives it along like the clappers!

When you read about the structure of bebop it seems so complicated and obscure that it’s hard to believe that the result is such a thrill to listen to. I think it  is the highest point of twentieth century music-making, both in the creativity and skill of its proponents and in the sheer excitement of its sound which is made all the more remarkable when you realise how difficult it is to play!

2 Responses to “Anthropology”

  1. […] such as this one which is the Charlie Parker classic Anthropology. I’ve already posted a version of it  by Bud Powell, in […]

  2. […] to find on Youtube this version of the classic bebop tune Anthropology, which appeared on another blog post of mine about Bud Powell (who also plays on this track). This clip (inevitably without video I’m afraid) is in fact […]

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