Ain’t technology grand? Some studio wizards took Charlie "Bird" Parker’s solos, "cleaned them up" sonically without tampering with their content, and had contemporary jazz players "play along" with the solos so it’d make a fine soundtrack for the Clint Eastwood biopic "Bird." Before the purists get their hackles up, it makes sense, if you wanted to have a soundtrack with appropriate sound quality. Now the sound is even better: this edition of Bird - The Soundtrack has been given the deluxe digital remastering treatment, and the sound is exemplary. But the important question is: how does it hold up as a listening experience "separated" from the film? (I almost always feel a soundtrack sounds "lost" without the accompanying movie.) Quite well, actually - Parker’s modern improvisational but blues-derived brilliance shines through on these classic chunks of Birdology: "Ko Ko," "Now’s The Time" and the gorgeous "Laura," from Parker’s underrated, still somewhat controversial "with strings" session.
The new backings are swell - hardly transcendental, but super-charged with inspiration and flair nonetheless. Kudos are due to the bebop piano stalwart Barry Harris and the underestimated Monty Alexander, whose full-bodied Bud Powell-inspired key-work is positively dazzling; bassists Ron Carter and Ray Brown, both nimble and swinging as the day is long; and the crisp, imaginative, driving force that is drummer John Guerin. This new edition in/of the massive history of Charlie Parker is not going induce time-honored Ornithologists to shlep their old Parker discs on Dial, Verve and Savoy down to the buy-sell-trade shops, but fans of the movie - and those wanting a good introduction to Parker’s music but are daunted by his large discography - will find this a most fulfilling purchase.