Day Three brings me to another icon of mid-century American music, jazz saxophone master innovator Charlie Parker. The album “Yardbird Suite” from 1953 is rated as the #5 selection on gq.com’s list of 100 best jazz albums. As will be the case with some of these older finds, I could not find this exact album on my streaming music service, so I went with a comparable release, “The Magnificent Charlie Parker”.
Emerging in the 1940s in the Harlem jazz scene, Charlie Parker secured his place among jazz legends playing with other giants of the scene such as Miles Davis. He has been credited with advancing the sound to a place where jazz was fully embraced by the underground scene of the 1950s. Like my other two studies before him, Charlie experienced a difficult and short run of greatness before dying too soon in 1955. Familiar demons of addiction hold no borders in geography or musical sound.
I will acknowledge jazz music, while highly influential in modern music, has not always been an easy listen for me. The frenetic and scattered pace of the most up-tempo songs sends me searching for a more soothing sound and robust melody. However, this collection covers all the bases, and I eased in to a place of warmth and comfort with songs like “K.C. Blues” and “Blues for Alice”. Midway through the album, multiple tracks with vocals, including the classic “In the Still of the Night” added a change of pace, before returning to the pattern of solo sax, trumpet, piano and bass blended in the ensemble beginning and conclusion.
As is the case with any style of music, jazz captures a mood, a vibe and a feeling. As I listened to this album while walking on a cold, grey and misty winter day, I found myself longing to be in a warm club beside a fire, listening to this incredibly smooth and alluring sound with good company, an assortment of food and drink, and the sense that nothing else would matter within this bubble. Although I may not make it to that cocoon of musical heaven of pre-pandemic New York City today, I am very confident that as I close my eyes tonight, I will drift off again to the sounds of Charlie Parker and the age when jazz ruled supreme north of 110th street.