Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker ‘Diz and Bird’ (Essential Jazz Classics) 5/5

An all-star cast is just one of the highlights of this superlative recording of Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker who were still at the height of their powers in 1951. The original album is grouped together with several alternate takes and two separate sessions from 1950 that makes for over seventy-five minutes of essential bop listening. Joining the band was a then young Thelonius Monk and it is worth the price of the CD alone just to hear him as a sideman, developing his highly individualistic sound which he would at a later stage develop as a leader in his own right. Curley Russel on bass and Buddy Rich on drums complete the all-star formation. Just like John Coltrane almost a decade later, Charlie Parker could play the sweetest of melodies when required to do so and blows some of the most soluful blues you are ever likely to hear on ‘My melancholy baby’. Dizzie is in more laid back mood on this number, but is still capable of conjuring up some of those high-pitched notes that are uniquely his own. Several Parker originals are featured and include Bird’s fabulous solo on ‘Bloomdido’ with a white hot rhythm section, the mid-tempo ‘Relaxin’ with Lee’ where Dizzie Gillespie has the chance to solo at length and the trading of licks between the two leaders on a decidely uptempo take on ‘Leap frog’. More plaintive hues can be heard on ‘Mohawk’ which serves as the backdrop to yet another soulful interpretation from Bird. Rounding off the package as a whole is a fascinating interview reproduced between Charlie Parker and the then emerging altoist in Dave Brubeck’s group, Paul Desmond. New liner notes and a 1958 Gramophone review reproduced in full make for a first class edition. Full marks to EJC for providing so much informative biographical detail. The album was formerly part of a larger ten CD set and as such is now available to a wider audience at a more affordable price. Beautifully re-mastered, the alto saxophone and trumpet of one Bird and Diz never sounded clearer or sharper. Simply indispensable. Tim Stenhouse