Composed by Charlie Parker; arranged by Buddy Clark.
Recorded by Supersax for Capitol Records in Los Angeles in February 1972.
Supersax on this recording consisted of the following musicians: Med Flory and Joe Lopes, alto saxophones; Warne Marsh and Jay Migliori, tenor saxophones; Jack Nimitz, baritone saxophone; Ronnell Bright, piano; Buddy Clark, bass; Jake Hanna, drums; Conte Candoli, solo trumpet.
The story: Supersax was a group of Los Angeles-based musicians who revered Charlie Parker’s music. They loved Parker’s playing so much that they transcribed many of his most famous solos, voiced them for five saxophones, and recorded them. The resulting music was most enjoyable, and provided a reminder to jazz audiences of the 1970s and after what a brilliant musician Parker was, and how great his contribution to American music was. The recording of “Parker’s Mood” presented here was on the first LP issued by Supersax in 1973.
I am going to quote excerpts from the liner notes on the original album, written by jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather to give you a better sense of how Supersax came to be: “It is a rare occurrence in contemporary music when a new group is organized whose premise, while uniquely fresh and exciting in execution, is based on a concept deeply rooted in the best traditions of the past. Supersax is just such an instance.
The premise is simple. Charlie Parker’s solos, exactly as improvised while being committed to records, were of such inspired and awesome originality that they constituted de facto compositions in their own right. In other words, when Bird blew a series of choruses based on the chord pattern of some standard song, the product was a work of art worthy of being extracted from its context and expanded through the medium of orchestration.
There have been occasional isolated cases in which ad lib solos were developed in this manner. Tow of the earliest were the Bix Beiderbecke solo on “Singin’ the Blues,” and Bunny Berigan’s contribution to Tommy Dorsey’s “Marie,” both of which were transcribed off the records and voiced for trumpet sections. Vocally, the idea was picked up by a long line of singers from Eddie Jefferson to King Pleasure to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. (And later, by Manhattan Transfer. MZ)
The unprecedented use of this precept as the basis for an entire instrumental library grew out of alto saxophonist Med Flory’s association with the late Joe Maini, a widely respected alto player who died in 1964.”Joe was working in a big band I had around Los Angeles,” Flory recalled, “when I wrote out the Parker solo on ‘Star Eyes’ for a full saxophone section. Then I did the introduction on ‘Just Friends’ and Joe Maini, who had memorized Bird’s solo note for note, gave me the lead line for the rest of the chart. It seemed like a great idea, but nothing came of it, and after Joe’s death it was more or less forgotten. Then one night a year or so ago (bassist) Buddy Clark, who’d played bass on that band with us said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a whole book of Bird things like that, and play jobs with it?’
“I said, ‘Fine, but who’s going to write it?’ Buddy said, ‘Let me try it – just show me what to do.’ I gave him a few hints on which way to go, and he started writing. I was busy at the time…so I was too hung-up to do many of the arrangements myself. (Flory, in addition to being a studio musician, was also a TV actor and script writer.)
The band coalesced to meet the formidable challenge of reading and sensitively interpreting these uncommonly demanding arrangements. The common bond among these musicians that cancelled out the diversity of their backgrounds was an intense love for and understanding of the music of Charlie Parker. When after eleven months of patient woodshedding (rehearsal), Supersax was finally presented to the public at Donte’s (a Los Angeles jazz club of the 1960s and 1970s), a question came to the minds of some listeners; does this concept constitute living in the past, or is it rather a case of relevance-through-reinvention? My own feeling immediately was that a new dimension had been added to these time-defying solo lines, as though a Piccaso painting had become a sculpture.
The group’s basic sound is that of two parallel melody lines an octave apart.
Since Charlie Parker made many of his definitive recordings before the age of the long-playing record, and because he usually accorded part of the limited solos space to his sidemen, in many cases there was not enough improvisational Bird on any one record of each tune to constitute a full-length Supersax arrangement. Buddy and Med resolved this in several tunes by using a composite of solos from two (or more) different versions of the same number.
Regardless of the sources of their inspiration, most important of all is that steeped as they were in the subject, the Supersax musicians succeeded in retaining the spirit as well as the letter of Bird’s one-to-a-century genius.
“Just say,” Med Flory enjoined me as we discussed my notes for the album, “that this was our affectionate tribute to a man we’ve respected and idolized through the years.”
“Parker’s Mood” is a blues, and a reminder that Charlie Parker, in addition to being the musician who was in the vanguard of the development of the jazz idiom called bebop, was one of the greatest masters of the blues in the history of American music. Bird’s exposure to the blues came early and often in Kansas City, where he came to maturity as a musician. Like many other jazz musicians with a KC connection (Count Basie, Hot Lips Page and Lester Young come to mind), Charlie Parker loved to play the blues, and he played them brilliantly.
The Supersax arrangement of “Parker’s Mood” is not an amalgam of recorded performances by Charlie Parker, but rather follows the recording Bird made of it for Savoy Records in 1948 (see and hear below) rather closely. The only differences are that in place of the two chorus piano solo on the original, there is a fine trumpet solo by Conte Candoli, and the tempo is a bit slower.
The five saxophones play Parker’s iconic solo beautifully, and the sonority of these instruments as a section is a joy to hear, evoking many great soli saxophone choruses of the swing era.
Composed and arranged by Charlie Parker.
Recorded by the Charlie Parker All Stars for Savoy Records in New York on September 18, 1948.
Charlie Parker, alto saxophone, directing: John Lewis, piano; Curley Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums.
(Note: Trumpeter Miles Davis was also on this recording session, but did not play on this recording.)
Here is Charlie Parker’s inspired creation in its original form. The only point I want to make about this performance is that it contains not only Bird’s masterful playing, but so many remarkable jazz ideas that it bears repeated listening. Parker also received excellent support from his rhythm section throughout this performance, and pianist John Lewis, later to achieve fame as the musical director of the Modern jazz Quartet, plays a couple of lovely blues choruses which provide a perfect contrast to Parker’s alto saxophone solos. This is timeless music.
The recordings presented here were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Here is a link to Monk Rowe’s wonderful interview with trumpeter Conte Candoli, which was recorded on October 12, 1997. Among many other subjects, “the Count” discusses Charlie Parker and Supersax.