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Charlie Parker session details

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Unknown date, probably 1950-1951 (7 items; TT = 59:31)
Buddy Johnson's basement, New York NY
Private recording (Tape) (C)

Charlie Parker (as); George "Big Nick" Nicholas (ts); Unknown (tpt); Unknown (tb); Unknown (ts); Unknown (p); Unknown (b); Unknown (d)

1 TV and chatter 6:14
2 Three Little Words (H. Ruby-B. Kalmar) 22:35

Begins with Parker warming up, then a piano introduction; theme; Nicholas (ts); Parker (as), 5:21-9:00; trombone; piano; trumpet; another tenor; bass; drums; then two-bar exchanges: tpt/d; ts/d; as/d; ts/d; tb/d; tpt/d; ts/d; as/d; ts/d; tb/d; tpt/d; closing theme. There is a gap in Parker's solo and several seconds are missing
3 Lady Bird (T. Dameron) 16:59

Begins with a woman and man talking. After a piano introduction and the theme, Parker has a nice solo (1:05-4:28), followed by trumpet; Nicholas (ts); trombone; another tenor; then the closing theme
4 The Lady is a Tramp (R. Rodgers-L. Hart) 4:12
5 Rockabye Basie (W. Basie-S. Collins-L. Young) 3:04
6 That's It (L. Gullin) 5:33
7 All Yours (incomplete) (J. Norén) 0:54

This recording is from a 7" reel-to-reel tape in Louis Armstrong's collection, LAHM Tape 74/Louis Tape 41, tracks 3 and 4. The tape begins with a young girl talking and singing, and an excerpt of the 500th radio broadcast of "Quiz Kids." It continues with a jam session involving Parker and Big Nick Nicholas in the basement of pianist Buddy Johnson's home. This tape is marked "Bop Bop Bop" in Armstrong's tape catalog. The full group seems to consist of trumpet; trombone; Parker on alto; two tenors; piano; bass; and drums. The first tune sounds like "Three Little Words," and Parker has a long solo during which there is a lot of tape flutter and other noise. (The tape is off-speed as well, and the speed fluctuates -- the times listed above are from a version that has been pitch-corrected.) Following the jam session there is a relaxed version of "Lady Bird" probably by the same group; Parker has a beautiful opening solo. This tune is followed by a group without Parker playing "The Lady is a Tramp." The tape concludes with a 1939 recording of "Rockabye Basie" and two 1951 studio recordings, "That's It" and "All Yours," featuring Lars Gullin with Bengt Hallberg, Gunnar Almstedt, and Jack Norén.

The tape box is undated, but the Armstrong Museum estimates the date as 1954-1959, which is unhelpful since for most of this period Parker was dead. Of course the museum is dating the artifact, not the recorded music. The 500th broadcast of "Quiz Kids," which opens the tape, took place on January 8, 1950. The tape ends with the Gullin Quartet tunes, recorded in Stockholm on February 21, 1951 and issued on Metronome J-191. These tunes were released in the USA on New Jazz 841 (single) and Prestige PRLP 121 (10" LP); one of these is almost certainly the source of the Gullin tunes on Armstrong's tape. It is possible that the Parker/Nicholas recordings were made during this period. The quality of the recording is not good enough to hear many nuances of Parker's playing, although his fleetness and precision when warming up before the jam session suggest the earlier date. This is Charlie Parker in his prime. So 1950-1951 seems plausible, certainly more likely than 1954-1959.

Details for these recordings can be found in the Armstrong collection: LAHM Tape 74/Louis Tape 41, track 3 and LAHM Tape 74/Louis Tape 41, track 4.

I am grateful to Marcel Gärtner, John Griffin, Chieo Yamada, Leif Bo Petersen, and Louis Lo Cicero for help with this session. Despite their help this remains a very mysterious session.

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