Uptown Records, who not to long ago issued a legendary Town Hall (NYC) concert by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, have another surprise that will be welcomed by jazz lovers. Washington D.C., 1948 is a release of Charlie Parker’s contribution to a May 23, 1948 concert produced by Willis Conover entitled ‘Dixieland v. Bebop,’ held at a long-closed venue, The Music Hall that was in Northwest Washington, near Howard University.
The booklet that accompanies this CD, has extensive notes that chronicle the history of this event, the performers and the music. As indicated from the concert title, Parker came to Washington as part of a concert that presented Dixieland musicians in addition to a bebop group. The Dixieland musicians included Wild Bill Davidson, clarinetist Tony Parenti and trombonist Benny Morton who are only held on one of the tracks on this disc, which is devoted to the surviving bebop oriented tracks. In addition to Parker, the best known musician here was the great drummer Buddy Rich. Others heard here include drummer Joe Theimer (who had been in the Navy band that included John Coltrane) on the opening number, tenor saxophonist Ben Lary, pianist Sam Krupit, bassist Al Phipps and trombonist Rob Swope.
The opening number here is Tiny’s Blues, before Rich, Phipps and Parker are brought up for Bernie’s Tune, and the ballad These Foolish Things, before a lengthy Scrapple From the Apple. After these three numbers, the band becomes simply a quartet for Ornithology and KoKo (Bird’s legendary transformation of Cherokee). Parker is clearly at the forefront, with Rich swinging things along. Krupit takes an extended, slightly frantic piano solo on KoKo after which Bird and Rich trade fours before Rich takes a solo. These two performances stand out with Bird’s brilliant playing and Rich’s charismatic percussion.
After this is an abbreviated C Jam Blues on which the three Dixieland horns joined the full band, but cut short when Davidson got angry at Parker’s very audible laughter offstage during a fine solo by Parenti. An unfortunate end to what sounded like a very promising performance that would have given more a chance to display the common ground between alleged musical adversaries. Sound quality is adequate given the circumstances and one can certainly hear what was played without difficulty if not in highest fidelity.
The accompanying booklet includes insights and the evening’s history from Ron Fritts, Ira Gitler and Ross Firestone and adds to this valuable restoration of a piece of jazz history that will be essential to Charlie Parker aficionado as those who love classic bebop, especially given the unusual backing band for Bird heard here.
This review originally appeared in the November 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 310). I likely received my review copy from that publication.