Bird 100: Anthropology

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Charlie Parker, who was known to his friends as “Bird”. I’ve posted more than a few examples of Charlie Parker’s music over the years so I thought I’d celebrate the centenary with a bit of a flood.

I thought I’d start with this clip (inevitably without video I’m afraid) is in fact taken from the first ever Charlie Parker LP I bought when I was about 15 and which I still have. I bought it on impulse, not really knowing who Charlie Parker was, was this record that turned me onto his music and I’ve never turned off.

No information is provided on Youtube, but referring to the sleeve note reveals that the track was recorded from a radio broadcast live from Birdland in New York City on March 31st 1951 using a primitive disc recording machine by an amateur recording buff called Boris Rose. The sound quality isn’t great, but he deserves much greater recognition for capturing this and so many other classic performances and preserving them for posterity.

The personnels consist of Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Tommy Potter (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums).

Here’s what the sleevenote (written by Gary Giddens) says about this track:

“Anthropology is an “I Got Rhythm” variation which originally appeared, in a slightly different form, as “Thriving on a Riff” on Parker’s first session as leader. The tempo is insanely fast; the performance is stunning. Bird has plenty of ideas in his first chorus, but he builds the second and third around a succession of quotations: “Tenderly”, “High Society”, “Temptation.” Gillespie’s second chorus is especially fine – only Fats Navarro had comparable control among the trumpeters who worked with Bird. His blazing high notes tend to set his lyrical phrases in bold relief. Bud, the ultimate bop pianist (and much more), jumps in for two note-gobbling choruses: no quotes, though, it’s all Powell. The four bar exchanges that follow demonstrate Hayne’s precision.

Spot on, but words aren’t really enough to describe this scintillating music, so listen!

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