Charlie Parker - Confirmation: Best of the Verve Years

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Confirmation: Best of the Verve Years cover John does not live on Rock alone, so I had to include some jazz in my desert island 10, and this is it. In a way, this defies my original rules, where I said that I wouldn't include "best of" albums. On the other hand, that neglects the fact that Charlie Parker, mostly released sides, so most of his albums of today are collections of these sides. Thus, I've allowed this particular two disk collection into my 10.

In one sense, this is the hardest disk to review. Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about poetry. With the other albums, the lyrical content takes up a large amount of the review, though it's really the music that makes me choose the album in all of these cases. As it happens, there are songs with lyrics on this album, but Charlie Parker didn't write any of them. Though Parker did write many tunes which became jazz standards, the main things he brought to music were excellence as a musician (both live and studio), and stylistic innovation. Thus, this review is focused on areas that are a bit more esoteric to describe.

Charlie Parker playing saxophone I doubt that many people would dispute that Charlie Parker (nicknamed "Yardbird" Parker, or just "Bird") was the best saxophone player of all time. Both his technical skill and his emotional expressiveness with the instrument are breathtaking. His composition and improvisational skills show him to be as much an innovator as Mozart in classical music or Robert Johnson in blues. Jazz before Bird was swing and dixieland. His introduction of bebop raised jazz up from a melody-based style that facilitated dancing into a more sophisticated (though less accessible) level.

While previous jazz artists mainly focused on the melody as a jumping off point for their solos, Bird often abandoned the melody altogether and focused instead on the chord structure for the basis of his solos. When he first started playing this style, most musicians immediately recognized what he was doing. The public wasn't quite as quick to catch on, but bebop eventually became a respected and popular style.

Charlie Parker playing saxophone While the Dial Sessions are acknowledged as his best studio work, and the Savoy recordings are some of his best live work, Confirmation covers a broader spectrum of his styles. There are tunes performed with a quartet or quintet, with a full orchestra with strings, with a latin jazz combo, and even songs with vocalists. There are original Charlie Parker compositions as well as other popular music interpreted as only Bird could. And of course, he shines in all of these styles.

My favorite songs on Confirmation are the title track, Segment, April in Paris, Laura, Tico Tico, Mango Mangue, and My Little Suede Shoes. I think the only song of the whole bunch that's slightly cheesy is Old Folks, which is done with a choral group. Both the lyrics and the arrangement are pretty dated, but it's schmaltzy in a good kinda way. It sorta reminds me of the theme songs of a couple of old Disneyland rides (There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow from Carousel of Progress and Miracles from Molecules from Adventure Through Inner-Space), so I don't mind it too much.

This is one of my favorite albums to program to. The words are few and far between, so they're not a distraction, and the music is all over the emotional landscape, from slow bluesy numbers to upbeat jump swing stuff. Basically, it keeps my right-brain active, and leaves my left-brain free to work.
Charlie Parker
If you're interested, you can listen to samples of some of the songs here. If you really like it, you can even buy it there.

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