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Excerpt from SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS: Booker Little & Sheet Music

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 I'm thoroughly enjoying Adan Levy's immaculately detailed biography of Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus   (the extensive notes are available for download for free). One passage of many so far that caught my eye, ca. summer 1955 in Chicago: At night, Sonny would practice in the basement of the Y, where they had a piano . One night, he heard someone playing a Clifford Brown record on repeat who turned out to be trumpeter Booker Little. [possibly Clifford Brown with Strings , per author note, which released that spring] "I was playing it over and over again, and I guess I was driving him mad, because he was trying to practice himself," Little recalled. At the time, Little was a seventeen-year-old sophomore at the Chicago Conservatory who had come from Memphis and was also living at the Y. Finally, Sonny decided to approach him. "He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was trying to learn the melody," Little said. "He told me that it was probably b

Bird Quotes: "Cocktails for Two"

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I've only found two instances of Bird quoting the 1934 Arthur Johnston/Sam Coslow tune "Cocktails for Two," and they both were recorded within two weeks of each other at the end of 1945. The song appears in Murder of the Vanities  (1934), released the year after the end of Prohibition with the repeal of the 18th Amendment as a result of the ratification of the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933. The78prof on YouTube has provided an invaluable service in collecting the charted hits of American popular music in the early and mid-20th century, and a significant percentage of Bird's quotes can be identified as hit songs from the 1930s, which coincides with his formative adolescent years .  Duke Ellington's instrumental version from '34 was a hit and inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2007; the only other version that received the same treatment was Spike Jones's from '45, which was recorded later and inducted earlier (1995, over a decade before E

Bird Quotes: "Tico Tico"

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The Rufous-collared Sparrow, or "tico-tico" On March 12, 1951, Charlie Parker recorded the 1917 Zequinha de Abreu piece "Tico Tico" for a Norman Granz-produced session for Mercury, but he's on record quoting the tune at least three times in the years preceding. Once The earliest version comes from a set-closing version of "52nd Second Theme" from Billy Berg's Club in Hollywood, recorded just a few weeks after Bird's legendary "Ko Ko" session in New York. Bird slips it in at the top of the last A section of his solo , after which Dizzy comes in with a favorite quote of his own, "Rain on the Roof," and Billy Berg comes on the mic to announce the end of the set. In pop culture, the song was a major hit for Ethel Smith, who is featured playing "Tico Tico" in the 1944 musical movie Bathing Beauty , which is available on YouTube: It was also recorded by the Andrews Sisters , which includes English lyrics that make ex

Bird Quotes: "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody"

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I only know of two instances in Bird's recorded discography where he quotes from the 1919 Irving Berlin tune "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody." The first one I learned of (via Chasin' the Bird ) is the January 22, 1949 performance of "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid" live from the Royal Roost in midtown Manhattan.  (While preparing this blog post, I realized that this brief, half-minute outro from the broadcast is actually left off of the misleadingly titled The Complete Live Performances on Savoy , and isn't streamable on YouTube or online anywhere to my knowledge—but fortunately I have an LP copy of  Bird At The Roost, The Savoy Years - The Complete Royal Roost Performances, Volume Two , produced by the late great Phil Schaap, so here it is, ripped from my LP copy). Quote begins at 0:08 and runs until about 0:15 (last 4 bars of first chorus into the next chorus): The lyrics of this phrase go: "A pretty girl is like a melody /  That haunts you nig

Favorites of 2021

Not the "best," but simply my favorites from last year: Films/TV watched: Harakiri Some Kind of Heaven Princess Mononoke Bad Trip Gomorrah  (seasons 1-5) Varda by Agnes Berserk  (1997) Witches of the Orient Chinatown Mindgame King of New York The Taking of Pelham 123 Barry Lyndon Escape from New York Angel's Egg The Conversation Laura Books read: In the Dream House , Carmen Maria Machado No One is Talking About This , Patricia Lockwood The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War , Louis Menand Heaven , Mieko Kawakami Cuba and its Music , Ned Sublette Shows seen: Jeonglim Yang Quartet with Chet Doxas, Santiago Leibson, and Mark Ferber at Bar Lunatico (June) David Virelles Trio with Matt Brewer and Eric McPherson at The Jazz Gallery (July) Dan Weiss Trio with Thomas Morgan and Jacob Sacks at Bar Lunatico (August) Jerome Sabbagh Trio with Joe Martin and Al Foster at Bar Bayeux (September) Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet with Micah Thomas, Walter Smith III, Matt Brewer, Marcus

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, V

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  More notes on the compositions that appear on  <3 BIRD   (see part 1  here , part 2  here , part 3  here , and part 4 here ). 13. Arc's Peel Arc’s Peel is based on Parker’s studio improvisations on “Scrapple.” "Arc's Peel" is the last of the  compositions originally composed for  The Jazz Gallery's  Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33  to make it onto <3 Bird. As with "Cheroot" and "Mohawk," the initial strategy was to look at the two studio take solos overlaid and to identify any interesting patterns or musical effects that might suggest a direction for a composition: From my notes, I see that I was interested in playing with the idea of echoes or accumulations, as there are a number of phrases or shapes that seem to be handed off between the two improvisations (marked on the above as "echo"). There are also moments where the directions of lines either criss or diverge (notated in red with arrows), which I wanted to highlight for cont

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, IV

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More notes on the compositions that appear on  <3 BIRD   (see part 1  here , part 2  here , and part 3 here ). 10. Sturgis Sturgis is based on Parker’s recorded improvisations on “Mohawk.”  [this and later introductory statements are mine from the liner notes] Like "Cheroot," I composed the miniature "Sturgis" for The Jazz Gallery's Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33 that premiered in February 2021. The substrate for this short, through-composed line is "Mohawk," specifically Bird's two solo improvisations (the piece was named after the bassist Ted 'Mohawk' Sturgis , hence the title). In this case, I first overlaid the two solos, then tried to trace a path through both lines with the least amount of silence (a maximized solo line merging the two); then, the remainder would be a complementary "negative" solo line. On the original version of "Sturgis" that appeared on the Lockdown Sessions, I took advantage of the remote reco