1st in a series...

The Record: Charlie Parker, Historical Recordings, Vol.1 (Le Jazz Cool), $1.00
The Wine: Santa Rita Reserva, Cabernet, 1998 (Chile), $5.00 (discounted)

The first review in this series is a bit of an anomaly in thrift store finds: the bootleg. This Charlie Parker boot probably came out in the late fifties, early sixties judging from the smell. No date is given. The cover is all red except for small writing in the right-hand corner. The notes on the back give no musician credits, just a brief bio of CP. The vinyl is in great shape.

The wine comes from the Great Blowout at the wine store across the street from me. Rows upon rows of bottles with damaged labels, all for five bucks each. While some are shot, some are sublime. The '97 German Riesling Brut we picked up for New Years Eve was superb. Tonight's cab from Chile showed little promise right out of the bottle. Nose was nothing special. First taste wasn't bad. Kind of tannic, but no structure. Thin fruit. I figured I'd let it air out a bit.

The first track on this live boot is "Ko Ko" which burns right from the first bar. As much as I love the Savoy sessions, this live take smokes it. Dizzy is sort of restrained on his solo, but plays with taste. Parker is soaring. 'Round Midnight follows and it's immense. Super dynamics. Parker's solo is very muscular. Who is playing piano? Not Monk, for sure, but a few of his signature licks creep in...

First full glass. Better. Some cherry flavors happening. Not great, but a damn sight better than that Rosemount Shiraz they pushed on me the other day. That was pure swill, like a grape lollipop dipped in ethanol. I've heard the Santa Rita regular brand is pretty nondescript. "Reserva" usually means the best grapes of the harvest were used.

A blistering "Ornithology" rounds out the side, again, smoking the Dial studio version. The audience isn't too wild on this bootleg, but they're listening. A few subdued shouts of "Go, man" and "crazy" can be heard throughout. Some woman screams out "Baby!" right after the head of "Ornithology." There are some live Parker recordings where it sounds like an audience of fifty is right there on the bandstand, egging them on. These are classic from a historical wish-I-was-there perspective, but they're difficult to appreciate on a purely musical level.

2nd glass. Well, this wine hasn't come to life but it's very drinkable in a workaday way. I ate the rest of a bean fajita I didn't finish earlier, and that makes the taste more interesting. Actually, tonight's wine is a pinch hitter. The '95 Bordeaux I had lined up had a broken cork and the wine had oxidized and went brown. The guys across the street are snobs, but I have no doubt they'll take the wine back and give me something else.

Second side of this disc is even better than the first. A slamming version of "Move" starts off. Was this ever officially recorded? I don't think so. Great tune. Blazing tempo. Diz really shines on this. Bird starts his first chorus a little tentatively than gets rolling. He sounds like Ornette Coleman for a brief moment. This is followed by a very cool version of "White Christmas." Wish we could hear this every holiday season. Parker throws in a "Jingle Bells" quote. Irving Berlin is rolling in his grave. "WHERE ARE MY DAMN ROYALTIES? WHAT THE HELL IS A BOOTLEG??" Next comes another version of "Ornithology," faster than before with a little Latin tinge on the head. You can tell Parker loves this tune. He settles into it like his favorite chair. A few "Out of Nowhere" quotes are heard during his chorus.

Third glass. This will be the last one for tonight. I haven't great luck with South American wine, though I'm told that there is great value out there. A friend of mine bought me a bottle of this Chilean stuff "Amadour," which he swears by. I'll try it soon. Has a nice humble label.

This music, however, is superb. The version of "Hot House" is not as wild as many I've heard, but Parker plays so damn fluidly. He can be in the middle of a lazy phrase, then just spin a length of notes like he's spitting out pearls. This whole thing has a very west coast vibe. Maybe this was a post-Camarillo Shock Treatment gig. The second to last tune is a swinging "Groovin High." Parker & Diz play the whole thing in unison. Some versions I've heard, they break into harmony here and there. Parker's solo again is very relaxed, then, BOOM, five thousand notes in ten seconds. Is this Max Roach on drums? Sure sounds like it. A short "Theme" ends out the side. I suppose this is how Parker ended his sets. Miles used the same theme later on.

I'm corking the last third of the bottle. Maybe tomorrow I'll make some red sauce for spaghetti and use it in that...

--Lane Sternberg

next: 2nd in a series--
The Record: James Brown, "I Got The Feelin" (King), $0.50
The Wine: Monterra Merlot (California) 1997, $5.00 (discounted)

Last update: March 30, 2006