130. Charlie Parker / Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (1995)
If you're only interested in Bird's famous recordings with a small orchestra, then you can save a little coin with this attractive disc. (It's only fair to say that for just a few extra bucks, $20 on average for used, you can have all the material here plus much more and better liner notes if you buy the Complete Verve Masters.) But as this disc's title indicates, it contains the complete master takes of Bird's famous 1950 sessions with strings. In addition to the 14 tracks contained on the original two LPs by Mercury, the Verve CD contains 10 bonus tracks recorded 1947-1952. The orchestral numbers are all standards, and when they work, it's magic. Some have argued that this was a commercial sell out. It was so successful that it led to a flood of other artists playing with strings. The truth is that Parker himself always wanted to play with an orchestra, and these recordings fulfilled his dream. In the greater context of jazz today, I think it's a stale argument and intentions don't matter. Who cares whose idea it was? Hey, it's Bird, there's some extra musicians, and the result is warm, elegant, and hard to turn off. Whoever can't enjoy such an engagement must be difficult to please. Likewise are my feelings for Cliff Brown, Dizzy, or anybody else who went in the studio with an orchestra in the 1950s.