Charlie Parker: 'Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection'

The cover of Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection

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MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Once again, it's time to prostrate ourselves at the altar of bebop. Hi, I'm Murray Horwitz with our latest entry in the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection. You know, just the word "bebop" puts some people off, and sounds secretive and forbidding to them. But really, it ain't nothin' but a style.

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HORWITZ: The ultimate Charlie Parker collection? I don't know. The pianist and composer John Lewis once said that every solo Charlie Parker ever played was perfect. In most ways, Charlie Parker was, himself, the ultimate jazz musician. The best thing about this two-CD set is that it contains most of the most significant recordings, including the all-important 1945 dates with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Al Haig, Big Sid Catlett, and the other early beboppers. These are among the sacred artifacts of American music, including one of NPR's 100 Most Important American Works of the 20th Century, "Ko-Ko."

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HORWITZ: You know, Dizzy Gillespie always said, "Nobody could play the blues like Charlie Parker," and the evidence is on this set, including the famous, "Parker's Mood."

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HORWITZ: I've got some complaints about the set. They don't give you the better of the two famous takes of "Embraceable You," in my opinion. Why not give us both? And you do hear some Charlie Parker with strings, but in less-good sounding concert versions. But, hey, this is Charlie Parker. Some of the golden truths of life are right here in these recordings.

The two-CD set is called Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection from Rhino Records. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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