Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bird's Ecstasy Part One

For many years I listened to Bird without, I believe, really hearing him. Like a lot of us I began with the recordings on Dial. The Eastwood film had recently been released and there were a slew of reissues. Warner had put out a modest double record set including the full session that produced Yardbird Suite. Included was a booklet that reproduced a number of paintings for Bird. Among these were works by Romare Bearden, Larry Rivers and Raymond Saunders. I was intrigued and deeply moved by the inspiration the music had offered these artists. Still, it wasn't until a few years later that I had the glorious encounter that was, for me, hearing Bird for the first time. I remember it well. I had been living in Seattle for a only a few months when I happened upon a record store that stocked a wall of jazz vinyl. There under his leader card was the Savoy long player, Charlie Parker Memorial record. You know the one, with the introduction from Al Collins? I would gaze at the record each time I came in. There he was, The Bird, in Glen plaid and a bow tie, blowing above a teal blue background. In flight. Finally after a few more months of saving, I had enough to buy this scarce collectors item. Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard that day. A strange mercurial light seemed to emanate from his horn, illuminating the world around me in strange and beguiling ways. Koko!

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