I didn't think that I was going to like this record because it seemed on paper too all-star and contrived, museumsville perhaps, gathered round a centenary that fell last year and of course we know what happened last year…
… but I do dig it and the big C is not Covid but Charlie as in Parker. And I kept returning for second and third helpings on certain tracks. Parker, Bird to all, remains an endless fascination and is still a huge factor of inspiration for the new generation going by how many times his tunes pop up in London jam sessions and gigs week in week out. Probably my Bird highlight this year was when Tom Ollendorff's trio played the rarity 'Bongo Beep' at a gig back in May for example. So you're always learning when you step into Charlie Parker's world.
What we learn here is how voicings in orchestrated settings can find a new softness and velvety texture so it is a different view. That softness does not mean ersatz. And while there aren't any rarities that doesn't matter because the arranging is so fresh.
You'll also get some fine scatting, actually more like vocalese as the singer is taking on a horn line and replicating an improvisation, from Camille Bertault on 'Cherokee/Koko', Tia Fuller in her prime on 'Summertime', a lovely AfroCuban feel to 'Scrapple from the Apple' and much more.
The whole thing does not overpower which is a feat given the artillery of the German SWR (Südwestrundfunk) Big Band which in different hands could have been dull and lumpen.
Certainly if you are into arranging this is meant for you given the new hoops the Swedish saxophonist Magnus Lindgren and revered US pianist John Beasley put the charts through. Joe Lovano, Chris Potter and Miguel Zenón also crop up so there are lots of points of entry if you just want to concentrate on soloing but really it's the arranging that counts above all and it's not often that happens to steal the show. Christmas has come early for nerds into charts, Bird fans and big band fans alike. SG
Magnus Lindgren and John Beasley, top. Photo: Lena Semmelroggen