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Complete Verve Master Takes

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Alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker (1920–1955), arguably the greatest of all jazz soloists, one of the founders of bebop, was born in Kansas City, and it was there that he began his musical career. In his teens he played locally with the bands of Lawrence "88" Keyes, George E. Lee, Harlan Leonard, and Jay McShann. His major influences at that time were altoist ... Read more in Amazon's Charlie Parker Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Distribution
  • ASIN: 5550159082
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tyrone on 26 May 2010
Format: Audio CD
Charlie's Verve years brought more fantastic combo cuts & plenty of commercial ones too, including his infamous Bird With Strings records. I've a slight Charlie Parker dependency & will listen to him play anything so the pop stuff doesn't really put me off, beneath the orchestra he was always Bird. Charlie's record history's complicated & tough to follow (for example, his 1952 Bird & Diz LP was cut in '49 & '50 & most of it was already out on singles in '51) but the tracks on these discs were first out on about 20 singles & 9 LP's up to 1957, so they're excellent value.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
113 of 113 people found the following review helpful
An inexpensive way to get Bird's Verve years 12 Aug 2004
By satisfraktion - Published on
Format: Audio CD
For those new to Charlie Parker, his output roughly can be summarized by two collections (not taking into account the rarer sessions of his early years or the recordings made under Dizzy Gillespie's name): the sides he recorded for the Dial and Savoy labels between 1944 and 1948, and the sides he recorded for Verve (Mercury/Norgran/Clef) from 1948 until his death. So you can get an excellent Bird retrospective by purchasing a "Savoy and Dial" box set and a "Verve" box set. Until this collection came along, many people bought the $150 "Complete Bird on Verve." It contains alternate takes, live recordings, and 5 or 6 tracks not under his leadership. I wouldn't recommend that set to anyone but ardent ornithologists. You probably don't want to listen to 11 takes of "Leap Frog." You'll have to decide if the live and "non-leader" tracks are worth the extra $100.

With this set, you get all the master takes of the studio recordings in a very handsome package. It comes in a tin case and a 70+ page booklet. It covers the bebop recordings he did with Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, with Miles Davis, with Kenny Dorham, and with Red Rodney, among others. Also here are the famous "Charlie Parker with Strings" sessions, latin-flavored sides, and the big band sessions (including some with the great Gil Evans).

Many people argue that the Verve years were too controlled by producer Norman Granz, who cultivated a kinder, gentler Bird, in comparison to the rawer, bluesier, more energetic classic bebop recordings on Savoy and Dial. While I also prefer those earlier sessions, I cannot find any fault with the Verve sides. Different? Yes. Inferior? No. C'mon, this is Bird we're talking about! These recordings are teeming with magic (take a listen to "Just Friends" for proof). This is a must-have for any self-respecting music fan.

To clarify comments made by a reviewer below, no songs are missing. This is a collection of studio recordings under Charlie Parker's name. "Repetition" is credited to the Neal Hefti Orchestra, the four latin sides mentioned are by Machito and His Orchestra, and the Hawkins track was recorded under no one's name in particular. I agree: it would have been nice to have included those on a fourth CD, but I think Verve was trying to make this a more affordable 3CD set.

By the way, if you want a Savoy and Dial Masters box set, two good sets are out there: the $50 Savoy-released set (search on Amazon) or the less handsome, but cheaper (and slightly better sounding) "Studio Chronicle 1940-1948" by JSP. This latter one has the additional benefit of including early sides with Jay McShann, those under Gillespie's name, and all but two of those mentioned as missing by the reviewer below (the two recorded after 1948). Highly recommended!
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Almost Complete Verve Master Takes 10 Nov 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Don't get me wrong -- the music is fantastic and the sound is terrific. I am happy to have purchased it in this form.
BUT, this assuredly is NOT the complete studio master takes of Parker's Verve/Clef material:
Missing are:
(1) Repetition, from the same day as "The Bird"
(2) A few Latin-flavored sides from late 1948 and early 1949: No Noise; Mango Mangue; Okiedoke
(3) Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite
(4) Two songs from a 1950 session with Coleman Hawkins -- Celebrity (Celerity) and Ballade.
Items (2) and (4) are on Parker's "South of the Border: Verve Latin Jazz Sides".
I guess they must have REALLY wanted to squeeze it on three CDs.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great collection! In case you already own some Charlie Parker Verve CDs, you could also... 3 May 2010
By German Artist - Published on
Format: Audio CD
... purchase the single CD Charlie Parker releases: "Swedish Schnapps"; "Bird and Diz"; "Charlie Parker With Strings" and "Charlie Parker" (album title), and you will have all his good Verve recordings.

That was the short version of my review.


Here's the reason for my recommendation:

If you're interested in completing your collection of all his Verve recordings in single CD releases, while avoiding duplications, I would like to help you to find your way through the labyrinth of CDs of his music that Verve released, often mixing up the contents of the original LPs.

First of all, buying this collection of the so-called (the aren't) Complete Verve Master Takes is likely the cheapest way to get all the songs you don't have yet, even if you already own previous single CDs.

However, the takes in this collection are presented in chronological order of the recording sessions, which means that the themes of the music greatly vary, and you here some songs from one album, then some from another album, then back to the previous album, etc. I prefer to listen to one original album at one time, maybe a collection of songs with his quintet, or listen to another album, with strings, but not everything mixed together. Of course you may like that.

Also, I really love the original album covers of his individually released Verve albums, and since I already own several single CD releases of Charlie Parker's music on Verve, I was reluctant to buy this newly released "Charlie Parker - the Verve Master Takes" to complete my collection, especially since, in my opinion, the cover is truly horrible; Charlie Parker is depicted as a sort of gorilla, with his face scratched out and a red ribbon across his chest. It looks more like he's operating a pressure hammer than playing a saxophone. I saw it in the record store, and it's much worse than in the photos. It has nothing whatsoever with his music, or him as a person. But then, the Billie Holiday Verve Master Takes collection has an even more out of character illustration.

I love Charlie Parker, and I think the discs that contain his beautiful music should be housed in albums with beautiful design; above all, the original artwork that he himself saw when his albums were released. Also, there is something really nice and intimate about holding one album with a nice cover in your hand and to put the disc in the player, and to hear the music that inspired the original album cover. The CDs often contain two or more original LPs of similar theme, or number of musicians.

I found out, that all of Charlie Parker's Verve studio recordings, without duplications(*), are contained in 7 Single CD releases, of which I recommend only 5. These discs also contain many alternate tracks - which you may not care for, but can program out - but also have some additional great recordings that are not in this Master Takes Collection. Each CD has a really nice, authentic design, based on the covers from one of the original LP releases they contain. Here are the seven CDs, in order of recommendation:

"Charlie Parker With Strings" (Highest recommendation)
"Charlie Parker" (Highly recommended)
"Charlie Parker Swedish Schnapps" (Recommended)
"Bird and Diz" (Recommended, but very short)
"Charlie Parker South of the Border" (Recommended, with reservation)
"Charlie Parker - Cole Porter Songbook" (Not recommended)
"Big Band" (Absolutely not recommended)

"Charlie Parker Swedish Schnapps", and "Bird and Diz" contain his quintet recordings, his album with the title "Charlie Parker" contains his quartet and other small group recordings. "Charlie Parker South of the Border" contains his work with Latin Jazz groups, including the "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite", a 17 min long work, which the "Verve Master Takes" Collection does not have.

The "Charlie Parker with Strings" 10" LP was Charlie Parker's favorite of all his own recordings, and contains Jazz standards, almost all ballads. It's just a small group of musicians, including a handful of string players, who do not drown his playing and are not obtrusive. You clearly hear Charlie Parker's inspired dance around these wonderful melodies. The first 14 songs are sublime, and this is my favorite album.

(*) Charlie Parker's last, incomplete, LP for Verve was "Charlie Parker plays Cole Porter", for which he recorded only six songs before he died. He wasn't into these sessions, and it shows. The so-called "Charlie Parker Cole Porter Songbook" CD (a Cole Porter potpourri from several, extremely varied sources) is currently the only readily available single CD release of these 6 songs from the original Cole Porter LP. Charlie Parker's playing is uninspired, or drowned in a huge orchestra, or chorus, and I don't recommend this CD.

The recently released "Big Band" album is not good, because it mostly consists of material from the "Charlie Parker With Strings" CD, which is an album of much higher consistency. None of the other "BIG BAND" songs are good, because he has to fight a very aggressive, LOUD orchestra. It gets even worse... three songs on the "Big Band" album - "In The Still Of The Night", "Old Folks" and "If I Love Again" - are truly atrocious and terribly dated, sung by a small "chorus" that has no musical merit whatsoever, and Charlie Parker is bogged down in this thick moasses which totally stifles his playing and invention. Listening to these songs is witnessing a rape or a genuine, pure artist. I urge you to sample these songs before you purchase the Big Band album, which entails many duplications from other albums. The Verve website let's you listen to the tracks in more detail.

Finally, there may be one reason to purchase the 3 disc collection of his music after all. I own the "Clifford Brown" EmArcy Master Takes", in the same series as the Charlie Parker collection offered here, and I really love it. It is made with much love (see my review). The most wonderful thing about it is that the booklet has all the information about all the recordings, when, where, with which musicians. Best of all, there is a seperate section, where each single LP or Single is named, and a quick code how to program your CD player to play a particular album only, in the original playing order of the LPs, without cross referencing. It only takes seconds to program one album. I have no way of knowing whether this Charlie Parker collection also offers this same quick program code. It's really a wonderful thing to have.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
essential 21 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The remastering on this set is outstanding.Bird was know for such things as his dexterity, speed, expanding the blues, etc. But with the great sound of these cds, you can hear Charlie Parker's beautiful tone with combos, strings, etc.The acoustic bass which is driving the rhythm can be felt and so can the "bombs" from the drummers. Desert island disc-when you can sing along with these solos you begin to appreciate this great artist.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Unbelievable remaster! 2 Nov 2003
By Jeff Byrnes - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The audio quality of this box set alone is worth the price. It sounds AMAZING. Verve did an excellent job with this box set; the players are the best of the best (no surprise there, you gotta be good to play with Bird), and it features some of Charlie's best tunes (Now's the Time, Confirmation, Laird Bird, Bloomdido, Au Privave, Swedish Schnapps). Seriously though, the clarity of this recording is amazing.
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