Most of the music on this attractively-packaged four-disc set has been previously released both on LP and CD, but this version features the twin virtues of better sound quality and less Symphony Sid. Most of the material is drawn from the Boris Rose recordings of 1948-49 broadcasts from the Royal Roost. Highlights include a rarely-heard set with Tadd Dameron on piano; an all-star jam on "How High the Moon" featuring Conte Candoli, Flip Phillips, Charlie Ventura, and Shelly Manne; vocals by Dave Lambert and Buddy Stewart on five selections; three Royal Roost dates with Milt Jackson and Lucky Thompson; and the September 29, 1947 Carnegie Hall concert with Dizzy Gillespie. The real find, however, is a 1950 date from Chicago, with Bird soloing on tunes outside his usual repertoire, accompanied by local musicians, including Von Freeman's brothers George and Bruz (but, alas, no Von himself).
George Freeman's harmonically innovative guitar solos on these sides are astonishing, at least ten years ahead of their time. Also notable is the consistent excellence of Al Haig's piano solos on the Royal Roost recordings. The CD booklet is a prize in itself, with many rare photos, a Royal Roost ad for a Parker/Billy Eckstine double bill (admission 90 cents) that will make you want to book a reservation on the next time machine, and a delightful Paul Bacon essay. Loren Schoenberg's program notes, however, are opaque, presumptuous, and overlong.