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by World Music Network May 23, 2011


New Rough Guide Albums: Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

The 23rd of May marks the release of three new Rough Guide to Jazz Legends albums: The Rough Guide to Charlie Parker, The Rough Guide to Louis Armstrong and The Rough Guide to Miles Davis.

Marvel at Miles' lyrical jazz flows. Be charmed by Louis Armstrong's gravelly tones. Or toe-tap to Charlie Parker's tongue tripping bebop solos. Enjoy three timeless players on three great new compilations.

Charlie P

Charlie Parker is the father of bebop. Parker or 'Bird' as he is famously nicknamed had a gloriously greedy appetite for all things sax. He is said to have practiced for fifteen hours a day. And the fruits of such hard labour can be heard on devilishly dynamic tracks included on this album such as ‘Scrapple from the Apple’ and ‘Ornithology’.

Propelling rhythms, irregular phrases and virtuosic solos characterize his up-tempo style. ‘Salt Peanuts’ showcases Parker’s brisk agility and eccentric delivery. Whilst ‘Embraceable You’ is a fine example of Parker in a gentle ballad mood. ‘Au Privave’ is a positive mid-tempo number that echoes the influence of the earlier swing jazz style. A real treat on this album is the lush heavy scored track ‘Repetition’ with its swooning strings, agitated winds, disjointed piano and Parker’s saxophone theme which waltzes away on top.  Poor old Charlie was to finally expire aged just thirty-four, a result of his hard-living, hard-playing and a few hard drugs. A life played out at break-neck speed. The Rough Guide to Charlie Parker revisits the recordings of a legend.

Featuring a bonus CD: The Rough Guide to Bebop

Louis AThis Rough Guide concentrates on the body of flaming hot jazz that Louis Armstrong  turned out over the 1920s to 1950s. Armstrong hailed from New Orleans and his music is infused with a classic charisma that by all accounts reflected his charming on-stage presence.

His deep gravelly voice inflects a warm, full-bodied flavour on tracks such as ‘That’s My Home’ and ‘Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train’. On track ‘Heebie Jeebies’ Armstrong’s scat singing can be heard. Nonsense syllables become strokes of sound that paint out a melodic arch like any brilliant trumpet.

Armstrong’s trumpet and cornet playing also fizzes with character and is instantly recognisable. He is at home kicking back in swung vintage tunes such as ‘West End Blues’. ‘St James Infirmary’ is a broody re-worked blues song that swaggers with drunk melting chords. ‘Mack the Knife’ with pianist Oscar Peterson was a massive hit and is a bouncing bubbly number with Armstrong in his best puckish off-beat mood.

Featuring a bonus CD: Jazz Legends

Miles D

Miles Davis is the figure-head bar none of twentieth century jazz. He forged new ravines for revolutionary streaming styles to pulse through in previously unimaginable directions. The landscape of jazz was hugely expanded challenged by this trumpeter from Illinois.

The Rough Guide to Miles Davis focuses on his early career, 1940s to 1950s. It is a cherry-picked selection of some of his finest formative works. ‘Jeru’ is the earliest tune here from 1949 and features Davis in a healthy big band styled line up. Davis’ mellow tone partners the shimmering drum swings well and takes the edge off that brassy bright sound that large jazz ensembles can sometimes overdo. It was such introspective sensitivity as this that brought Davis to brilliance. He knew when to punch it out, but also and crucially when to mellow things down. ‘Round Midnight’ is a darkly romantic, sepia-coloured tune that smarts with a volatile gentleness. On ‘Stella By Starlight’ Davis is in a smiling modal mood. ‘Miles Ahead’ is a brilliant example of Miles’ more terse bouncing style.

Featuring a bonus CD: Jazz Giants