29 ago. 2008

Poor Phil Schaap. So knowledgeable and apparently well spoken. Yet he manages to talk without moving from the realm of the obvious and the anecdotal for half hour stretches. What makes Bird great? He doesn't say. He proposed that in the last few years of his life Charlie Parker was moving in a different direction. Ok. But how about telling us what that direction is? I had to go home from my office before I found out. We had to be told first that in Western music there is harmony, melody, and rhythm.

For me it's, a kind of uncanny quality that is also present in Lester Young. It's not speed per se, but a rhythmic quality of elasticity, an ability to dilate or compress time itself at will. The ability to play very fast is necessary, but not sufficient to achieve this quality, obviously. (In fact it is present at slower tempos with as much, or more, intensity.) Time can stand almost still at a breakneck tempo, yet speed up at a very slow tempo. The subtlety and taste of his phrasing is unmatched.

This is what fascinated Julio Cortázar who wrote a long short story called "El perseguidor" about Parker. (The "Johnny" in JC's story is very obviously Bird.)

There are many musicians I admire who don't at all have this "uncanny" quality. It is in Bud Powell, but not in Art Blakey. Tatum had it.

1 comentario:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Have you just provided the seed of a comparative study of Glenn Gould and Bud Powell?

Working title: "The Elasticity of Time". Theory by Heidegger.

What's a good Powell performance to hear this quality in? Preferably the slow, intense version.