Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charlie Parker Live At Jiyayr Zorthian’s Ranch

The following review was written in fall 2006 for Jazz & Blues Report, although I do not believe it was published. I received my review copy from the publication.

The release of previously unissued performances by Charlie Parker will certainly be a cause of celebration for fans of jazz history. The release, At Jiyayr Zorthian’s Ranch, July 14, 1952 (RLR Records), makes available what admittedly is not a high fidelity recording of Bird at a party held at the ranch of painter and sculptor Jiyayr H. Zorthian and was one of many he hosted of “intellectuals, artists and naked nymphs” over a half-century’s time. 

A pretty wild time was had by the attendees including, quoting the back cover “a massive strip-tease was performed and during Bird’s playing of Embraceable You. Whatever wild things were going on, the music was recorded privately and the sound is hollow and some portions had too much noise or distortion to be used and at other points, the performance is cut off, such as after Bird’s solo on Embraceable You. Also the bass and piano are not very audible. 

Playing with Bird at the party was Don Wilkerson on tenor sax, Frank Morgan on alto, Amos Trice on piano, Dave Bryant on bass and Lawrence Marable on drums with Chet Baker sitting in on one of the two versions of Scrapple From the Apple. Its interesting to hear A Night in Tunisia without someone handling Gillespie’s trumpet part and Parker sounds very good even if the sound is muffled before Wilkerson takes a solo which microphone problems required some editing before he is followed by Frank Morgan who sounds pretty good. 

The beginning of Ornithology was edited out for technical reasons with Parker caught in high flight as the track opens. Frankly the exhortations for people to take it all off could have been edited off Embraceable You, which has Parker in fine form on the ballad, while Parker and Marable trade fours on Tadd Dameron’s Hot House. The first version of Scrapple From the Apple, has a couple of nice Parker solos and Baker’s only appearance which suffers from the audio quality, while Cool Blues is a nice lengthy performance which includes Parker and Morgan trading fours as well as exchanges by all three saxophonists. 

The rest of the performances are also notable although the music will not be for casual listeners. This music has never been available in any format and while Parker is first-rate here, the audio quality will limit its overall appeal. For some, this will be a priceless addition to the known work of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists.

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