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A curated guide to Charlie Parker's Dial and Savoy Recordings

Charlie Parker (also known as Bird) influenced virtually every jazz musician that came after him. His improvisations, compositions, and approach to music seemingly came out of nowhere, but was a logical synthesis of music that he loved (such as musicians like Bach, Stravinsky, Lester Young.)

I think the best place to start with Charlie Parker's discography is with the Savoy and Dial collection. It has most of the foundational Bird melodies and very concise Bird solos with a wide variety of bands. I've curated the following playlist from that collection to show the highlights.


Here are some of Bird's great contributions to jazz, in my opinion:

  • Rhythmic variation. If you've ever seen a Bird solo written out on paper, you'll see that he uses every rhythmic trick in the book: syncopated eighth notes, eighth note and quarter note triplets, unexpected starts and ends of phrases, speed changes, playing laid back, and playing on top of the beat.

  • Accenting. His method of accenting makes it sound like a drum snare solo if you took away the pitches.

  • Contrafacts. He focused on standard song forms (blues, rhythm changes, famous songs like Indiana and Embraceable You) and made new melodies with them. This is what the academics call a contrafact, a new melody on chord changes of an existing song. Each Bird contrafact is a perfect bebop solo, a well balanced etude that people are still studying to this day.

  • Harmony. Bird showed that you can play any note, as long as you resolve it eventually (you don't even need to resolve it right away.)

Bird never talked about music, except one time I heard him argu-ing with a classical musician friend of mine. He told the cat that you can do anything with chords. I disagreed, told him that you couldn't play D natural in the fifth bar of a B flat blues. He said you could. One night later on at Birdland, I heard Lester Young do it, but he bent the note. Bird was there when it happened and he just looked over at me with that "I told you so" look that he would lay on you when he had proved you wrong. But that's all he ever said about it. He knew you could do it because he had done it before. But he didn't get up and show nobody how to do it or nothing. He just let you pick it up for yourself, and if you didn't, then you just didn't. - Miles Davis, Autobiography
  • The blues. Bird had a strong command of blues vocabulary, and would throw in a dramatic blues "cry" to really knock you out. (See K.C. Blues or Now's the Time).

Here are the sessions in order:

Session A: Reboppers Session, November 26, 1945, NYC (Savoy Records)

  1. "Billie's Bounce"

  2. "Now's the Time"

  3. "Thriving from a Riff" (it's "Anthropology" on the head out)

  4. "Meandering" (based on "Embraceable You")

  5. "Ko-Ko" (based on "Cherokee")

See this post for discussion on who plays trumpet on "Ko-Ko".

Band: Charlie Parker - alto sax, Miles Davis - trumpet (1,2,3, 5?), Dizzy Gillespie - piano (1,3,5,6), trumpet (5?), Sadik Hakim - piano (2,4), Curley Russell (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Session B: Charlie Parker Quintet, March 28, 1946, Hollywood (Dial Records)

  1. "Moose the Mooche"

  2. "Yardbird Suite"

  3. "Ornithology" (based on "How High The Moon")

  4. "A Night In Tunisia"

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Dodo Marmarosa (piano), Arv Garrison (guitar), Vic McMillan (bass), Roy Porter (drums)

Session C: Charlie Parker Quintet, July 29, 1946, Hollywood (Dial Records)

  1. "Lover Man"

  2. "The Gypsy" (based on "Teach Me Tonight")

  3. "Bebop"

Parker was intoxicated with alcohol and Dial Records producer Ross Russell had to hold him up to the microphone during the recording.

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Howard McGhee (trumpet), Jimmy Bunn (piano), Bob Kesterson (bass), Roy Porter (drums)

Session D: Charlie Parker's New Stars, February 26, 1947, Hollywood (Dial Records)

  1. "Relaxin' at Camarillo"

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Howard McGhee (trumpet), Wardell Gray (tenor sax), Dodo Marmarosa (piano), Barney Kessel (guitar), Red Callender (bass), Don Lamond (drums)

Session E: Charlie Parker Quintet, May 8, 1947, NYC (Savoy Records)

  1. "Donna Lee" (based on "Indiana")

  2. "Cheryl"

Donna Lee was credited to Charlie Parker, but Miles said that he wrote it in his autobiography, and gave it to Gil Evans to write an arrangement for the Claude Thornhill orchestra. Much later on, Gil Evans in a radio interview on WKCR FM, NYC stated publicly that the true author of the piece was drummer Norman "Tiny" Khan who taught the melody to Davis who then taught it to Parker.

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Tommy Potter (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Session F: Charlie Parker Quintet, Oct 28, 1947, NYC (Dial Records)

  1. "Dexterity"

  2. "Dewey Square"

  3. "Embraceable You"

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Tommy Potter (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Session G: Charlie Parker Quintet, Nov 4, 1947, NYC (Dial Records)

  1. "Scrapple from the Apple"

  2. "Out of Nowhere"

  3. "Don't Blame Me"

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Tommy Potter (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Session H: Charlie Parker All Stars, September 18, 1948, NYC (Savoy Records)

  1. "Barbados"

  2. "Ah-Leu-Cha"

  3. "Parker's Mood"

Band: Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet) except "Parker's Mood", John Lewis (piano), Curley Russell (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Playlists, again

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