Bird on Verve vol. 2
This was the first Parker album I ever had, and it still sounds special to me, although I’m sure that many others could have ended up on this list if I’d heard them first instead. When I got this album, age 12 or 13, I remember thinking that Parker sounded, above all, very ‘American’; I heard some connection to ‘Cowboys ‘n’ Indians’! I was fascinated, but he was never my favourite, and it was only later that I started to fully appreciate the genius (an unavoidable word with Parker), for although his style has been imitated more than any other, it is amazing how little the imitators sound like him; although some of his characteristic phrases have become thoroughly hackneyed, in Parker they were embedded within unpredictable melodic lines which others have proved incapable of producing. Later innovators like Eric Dolphy and Ornette Colemen capture more of the essence of Parker than his many disciples. This album finds him in the perfect setting, with Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet and Thelonious Monk on piano, playing solos which generations of saxophone players, myself included, have at some point memorised note-for-note.
Jazz at Massey Hall
One of the most famous jazz concerts of all time, the line-up of five of the most important figures in jazz – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach – is breath-taking and so is the music. Every solo (every ensemble passage for that matter) is a highlight, and there are endless memorable events, such as Parker and Mingus’s little comedy interaction on ‘All the Things You Are’.