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on 26 August 2013
This is one of those reissue programmes that is as welcome as it is surprising.. The German "Document" company who offers a fantastic catalogue of jazz and classical music, and have become experts in multi-disc packages, has assembled the entire ouvre' of the Charlie Parker Records Company, which was founded by Charlie's widow, Doris, and the late Aubrey Maheuw.

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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