Charlie Parker – Yardbird-DC-53 (VGM Records, 1983)

Bird lives in Lawrence, Kansas tonight. This is a bootleg recording from the Howard Theater (Washington D.C.) in March and April of 1953.

This addition to the Parker discography was published in 1983 by VGM records. Clearly a bootleg recording, the sound quality is not the finest, however, these two tracks stand out: the classic “Ornithology” and a break-neck “Anthropology,” in which the band barely manages to keep in step.

From the liner notes, “After Bird finishes his extraordinary solo [on Anthropology], it is the pianos turn and the piano man can be heard emitting a groan just  before he is to dig in. His groan is not only in appreciation and amazement at what Bird had just played but undoubtedly is a cry for help from somewhere outside himself– for he must realize that he is not like Bird and that he is a mere mortal.”

No one is quite sure about the identities of the other members of the quartet– and I’ll leave that for the Ornithologists to ponder. (It seems that most people agree that the drummer is Max Roach.) The All Music Guide calls this recording, “of primary interest to long-time collectors,” but neglects to call attention to the electric atmosphere of this recording. The cheers and shouts of the crowd are heard regularly, at one point laughter can be heard during a goofy bit of drum solo on Ornithology. This room noise adds so much to the tracks I would happily sacrifice the sound quality inherent to most “privately produced” recordings of the time.


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