- Audio CD (5 Mar. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Box set
- Label: Documents
- ASIN: B006ZUKBJ4
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,089 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Charlie Parker Records - The Complete Collection Box set
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Every record-collector has run across an album with the little sax-playing bird in its label-logo, right next to the brand name "Charlie Parker Records" or "CP Parker Records". Turning the sleeve over, especially if it was one of the non-Parker releases, and seeing a Sixties-release date under the header "Stereo-pact!" was as exciting an experience as it was confusing. "speculation and misinformation abounds, while fans and experts discuss". Even though a discography can be found online, never before has anyone made an attempt to present the complete output of this legendary label in one set. This comprehensive collection - completely re-mastered and newly annotated - is the first to present the entire output of "Charlie Parker Records" from 1961 until 1965. An early boutique-label, it was initially founded by Parker's widow Doris and the music-magnate Aubrey Mayhew to control the release of many of the illegal live-bootlegs that had found their way to collectors in the years after Charlie Parker's death. Some fifty albums and at least five singles were released on "Charlie Parker Records", lovingly dedicated to the music of Charlie Parker, as well as original and vintage works by his friends, followers and admirers. As such, this boxset is not only an anthology of this small and eclectic company, but a testament to its spirit and to the spirit of the man himself, the highflying "Yardbird", whose ideas and improvisations still inspire musicians and listeners to this day, more than fifty-five years after his death.
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The original idea was to make "official" issues of a lot of Parker's radio broadcasts, the implication being that they were in superior sound quality. This wasn't really possible or true, and during the sixties many other bargain labels (notably Saga in Britain) offered the same material in much the same same quality. This project was extended to include Lester Young broadcasts and then to record bop era musicians such as Cecil Payne Sadik Hakim etc in contemporary settings. The main period of activity was between 1961-1965. Virtually all the material C.P Records issued is contained in this 30 CD box set, very reasonably priced. It is housed in a sturdy 10" cardboard box, much like the box sets of the LP era, and each CD is housed in a cardboard case, often with a facsimile of the original sleeve (in the case of Mundell Lowe's "Satan In High Heels" which is the soundtrack to a bizarre 1960 film, the original sleeve with a woman brandishing a whip has been used - I preferred the British issue renamed "Blues For A Stripper" (one of the pieces from the soundtrack) which showed a girl sitting on a bar stool with a fur draped round her: this appeared in Britain on the "Summit/Egmont" label for the princely sum of 9 shillings and eleven pence (9/11d) or just under 50p, and I remember buying it at a branch of W.H. Smiths the newsagent round about 1965), but I digress....
It is interesting that the Parker Record Company seemed to have access to earlier material of studio sessions, for example, the Art Pepper/Marty Paich recordings of 1954/55.
There really is something for everybody here, from a Teddy Wilson Trio live recording in 1959, the Parker and Young material ("Bird Symbols" ) Slide Hampton and a group of singers, some best forgotten, in my opinion, but dear old Joe Carroll is there, who I have always had a soft spot for, with his association with Dizzy in the 40s and 50s.
My particular bête noir in this set is Cozy Cole "jazzing the classics" in this case Bizet's Carmen. Flutes tootle, a bass clarinet sounds lugubrious and poor old Cozy bashes and thumps away on his drums. Oh yes there is an electric organ too. John Kirby did this sort of thing much better twenty years earlier, and his records being 78s only lasted 3 minutes. I don't think many jazz (or Bizet lovers) will want to play this disc too often. Also, of course Kirby jazzed more composers than Bizet with rather more wit.
Red Norvo is in there, from 1962 according to the sleeve though for some reason I am sure I have heard this set before and then it was described as having been recorded in 1957. It sounds more like the 50s to me than the sixties but as I no longer have the record in question I can't compare it. Anyway, it's pleasant. The same can be said for several of the sessions: there are no real "classics" apart of course for the Bird Symbols sessions, (one Parker session, by the way, is now called "Many Miles of Davis" - oh, well played, sir!) and the Lester Young airshots from 1948/1952 show him to be on better form than was often the case at the time. He sounds more engaged with Jesse Drakes trumpet than some of the Verve studio sessions of the time, and no doubt the audience at the Royal Roost encouraged him.
There are some unexpected names in there: Oscar Moore, one time guitarist with the Nat Cole Trio, for example. Barry Miles, at the time of recording (1962) a 17 year old drummer, Ray Nance and Cat Anderson with an Ellington alumni (and very good it is, too), which shows Mrs Parker and Aubrey Mayhew (he died in 2009) had an eclectic taste in music, perhaps a bit too fond of very average singers, but then, nobody's perfect. The 30th disc brings together Bird and Lester for their 1949 JATP concert with assistance from Flip Phillips, Roy Eldridge and the forgotten trombonist Tommy Turk.
There is an informative booklet enclosed in the box, and the presentation is extremely good for such a cheap production. If you are hesitating could I just mention this: some of this music "Lost In Sound" by Yusef Lateef, for example, Duke Jordan's "Les Liasons Dangereuses" is available as reissues on the Fresh Sounds label, with no bonus material and at a price in the UK round about £13, so you really are getting a lot for your money. Like me, you will probably find yourself playing some discs over and over - others (in my case Cozy Cole and some of the singers) will probably never get played more than once, but if the names appeal - and there are so many more: Ray Barretto, Shelly Manne, Ray Barretto, Barney Kessel, Bob Gordon, appeal, go ahead and buy it while it is still available. I doubt it will be around long and you will probably find it only as a secondhand copy for £100 this time next year.
It's a tribute to a plucky little label, and for those of us of a certain age, it will remind us of the days we could go out and buy some of the label's output in Britain from a company based in Lancashire variously known as "Egmont" and "Summit" for less than ten shillings - the wealthier could get the Saga versions of the same material for 12/6d!. Happy days.
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To put it in a nutshell--if you're a deep jazz fan (especially the years covered in this collection), you'll probably want this set. It's full of okay/good/great jazz from some of the genre's finest musicians, and other lesser known performers. Included are albums by Duke Jordan, Yusef Lateef, Carl Perkins, Miles Davis, Oscar Moore, Barney Kessell, Lester Young, and a number of others, along with many albums by Parker. Is every album worth repeated listenings? Well, yes and no. Some are obscure for good reason, others undeservedly so. I guess it depends on how much you like this era of jazz. But all in all, this is a pretty cool set of music.
The Parker albums (dating from the late 40's to the early 50's) include: "Bird Is Free", "Happy Bird", "Bird Symbols", "Live At Rockland Palace", "Bird At The Apollo", "West Coast Time", "Birdology", "Fragments", "Parker Plus Strings", "The Charlie Parker All-Stars", "Bird-Historical Masterpieces" (3 separate discs), and "Parker And Lester Young An Historical Meeting At The Summit".
Other artists with albums (from the late 40's to the early 60's) include two fine albums by Duke Jordan, the soundtrack to "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "East And West Of Jazz", and "Satan In High Heels" (music composed/conducted by Mundell Lowe), "Lost In Sound" (Yusef Lateef), "Pretty Is The Only Way To Fly" (Red Norvo), "On Tour With Teddy Wilson And His Trio" (Teddy Wilson), "Many Miles Of Davis" (Miles Davis), "Prez" (Lester Young), "The Man With The Happy Sound" (Joe Carroll), "First Time Out" (Ann Williams), "The Fabulous Oscar Moore Guitar" (Oscar Moore), "The Modern Sounds Of The Orioles" (The Orioles with jazz backing), and a few others. Included are a few albums by relatively unknown vocalists (both male and female) that are good examples of period arrangements and styles. Try "I Only Know How To Cry", by Alice Darr. While nothing is as good as Sinatra's "In The Wee Small..." album as an example of torch songs, Darr comes pretty close--the title says it all. And for some up tempo bluesy tunes, try Joe Carroll, with accompaniment from Grant Green-guitar and Specs Williams-organ, among others. All these sets have a way of capturing your attention very subtly--it's like you're back in that era. Fans will recognize names like Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Bennie Green, Charlie Rouse, Art Taylor, Johnny Coles (a personal favorite), Doc Severinson, Art Pepper, Jim Hall, Ray Nance, "Cat" Anderson, Wardell Gray, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and many more among the sidemen on these albums.
The mono/stereo sound has been digitally remastered, and is relatively crisp and clean. While there's no sources listed, it's a good bet that many (most/all) were taken from vinyl sources. Overall the sound is pretty good, with only an occasional sonic anomaly here and there. Parker fans will know that many of his live recordings also included sounds from the club--patrons, clinking glasses, etc.--that are heard here too. But the studio recordings have some good sound, relative to the original recording era and the sources used for this set. Like I said in another review, ultimately it's the music that's important, and that's the case here. Besides, where else are you going to find all these albums in one nice, neat box set?
The packaging is pretty nice. The 10" X 10" lidded box is pretty substantial. Inside, the discs are packed in four separate spaces. The discs slip into cardboard sleeves that have that particular album cover on the front, and recording info on the back. The 23 page booklet is slightly smaller than the outer box. Inside are a couple of photos of Parker, and a two page essay on his life. There's nothing new here that fans don't already know about Parker. The rest of the booklet is taken up with a list of the individual volumes. Included are song titles, personnel and recording dates (where known), and some of the original album covers.
And while the music is the important thing here, it would've been nice to have a more in-depth and accurate booklet, with most (or all) the album covers, and liner notes. This would've helped put everything in better perspective. Plus a little more judicious editing would've been nice-there's some errors in the recording information. For instance, the recording details for the album by Art Pepper & Shelly Manne (on Vol.4), "Pepper Manne", doesn't list any credits for Shelly Manne's group-which is different than Pepper's group. The first four tracks are by Pepper, the other six tracks are by Manne's group. This is a bit maddening, and does a disservice to jazz fans who aren't as well versed in the genre as others. But these quibbles aside--this is a storehouse of jazz from a very small label from an era that produced some of the finest jazz in history. Parker fans/collectors will probably already own most (or all) the Parker albums, but the albums by other artists are well worth hearing too.
This reissue from Membrans is one of their better releases. I own a number of their box sets and this one was put together with a bit more thought, and it shows. Listening to a few discs at a time, you begin to feel like you've traveled back into that era of jazz--and that's a good thing. Thirty discs is a lot, but the effort in listening to these albums is well worth it. If you have space on your shelf for this, you might consider purchasing it. It's a treasure trove of good period jazz. One of the better box set reissues of some good, important (not just the Parker recordings), period jazz that will have a special space on my shelf. Hopefully (if this era of jazz is your thing) on yours as well.
One thing I don't understand is this review, along with others, has shown up on a Google site called searchproductreviews.com. How did this happen? If anyone knows anything leave a comment please.
Membran has done a nice job on packaging the set--the 30 CD's are packaged in stiff paper sleeves, 7 or 8 slotted at a time in each corner of a 10" box. It comes with a nice booklet containing a very brief biography (2 pages) and the track listings for the CD's. Color cover pictures of many of the original albums are also provided. For the price, it's a very nice package.
I haven't listened to all the CD's yet, but I have listened to the first six in the box, and the sound is uniformly excellent. I haven't gotten to the Charlie Parker discs yet, and I'll update this review when I get there.
For the price (I paid $43--it's now up to $59), it's well worth the money. So, buy it already!
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