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|1. Scrapple From the Apple|
|2. Hot House|
|4. Star Eyes|
|5. My Little Suede Shoes|
|7. Chi Chi|
|8. Now's the Time|
|10. Moose the Mooche|
|11. Billie's Bounce|
He says of Belovèd Bird, "I believe there is no point in recording unless one has something special to say. Now's the time to say something special: Bird Lives!"
Django Bates, who is equally at home on keyboards and tenor horn and is also an acclaimed composer, formed his first small group, Human Chain, in 1979 and it has become his signature vehicle over the years. During the '80s he was primarily associated with the big-band collective Loose Tubes, for which he was one of the principal writers. He has performed in a duo with Joanna McGregor, garnered commissions for his occasional big band Delightful Precipice, worked as a sideman with Tim Berne and in 1997 was awarded the prestigious Danish JAZZPAR prize. In 2005 he was appointed Professor of Rhythmic Music at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen.
Guardian 5 star review (26/3/10): "As a balance of creative interpretation and insight into the tumultuous psyche that created this music (Charlie Parker), it's an astonishing achievement."
Personnel: Django Bates (piano), Peter Bruun (drums), Petter Eldh (double bass)
There is another portrait of Parker that can be drawn, though: the balladeer, the romantic, the purveyor of music for lovers. British pianist Bates has wholeheartedly understood this and his decision to play Parker in a trio setting, backed by skilled double-bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun, enables him to investigate, reinforce and often subvert that emotional core with clarity and power.
His ‘Bird’ music is alternately seductive and sardonic, dreamy and dangerous. Since his emergence with London big band Loose Tubes in the 80s, Bates has been tagged as the quirky, mercurial eccentric, liable to entwine technical brilliance with high jinks, yet he has always had a sensitive side and that serves him well as he teases forth similar traits from the Parker songbook. The highpoint is a reading of Star Eyes which captures the sunny buoyancy of the original but also injects melancholy by way of an arrangement that toys with slow to middling tempos before injecting an unsettling minor key Latin vamp in the coda.
Afro-Cuban or calypso rhythms crop up frequently, perhaps as a passing nod to Parker’s great accomplice Dizzy Gillespie and the fizzing, darting energy of My Little Suede Shoes shows how playful if not joyous bebop can be despite the somewhat forbidding nature of its quicksilver chord changes and overall structural fragmentation. The jerky, off-centre dance loosely recalls the late, great Puerto Rican pianist Hilton Ruiz. Above all, Bates suggests the relevance of Parker to the 1960s avant-garde that largely broke with the orthodoxy that bebop became; or rather the pianist shows just how interesting bebop can be in the hands of an artist who knows the value of both free improvisation and on-the-money composition. --Kevin Le Gendre
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