Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the last book I ever read (Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning, excerpt four)

from Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch:

Back in the Savoy, the few people in the audience started moving up toward the bandstand as this saxophone player leaned forward, sweating like a waterfall, delivering his message as though he were on a mountaintop. Even Charlie Buchanan ambled up there, caught by the sound, the fury, the determination, the swing that had the radio man jumping. Parker, completely sparked, ran through the changes like a dose of Epsom salts, unwilling or unable to repeat himself.

Stretched out like that, with the rhythm section after his scalp and the cyclical traps of the harmonies ever before him, Bird reached down and called upon all his skills and instincts, all the gifts for perception in emergency that he had developed over the years, even at this tempo making coherent statements, playful variations, and mocking responses to the musical ideas by which he was surrounded, supported, attacked. His obsession with shifting, deceptive rhythm resulted in endless ways of toying with the beat that jelled perfectly with his desire to create melodies accompanied by harmonic surprise. In his hands, a single note functioned on five levels: its individual pitch was melodic; it was a brass-balled harmony note; it was given individual texture through his control of color; its voicing was dictated by the register in which it was played; and it served a rhythmic function within its phrase. As Ramey said, “Bird knew how to dance in and out of that meter, with the tempo, and still get back when Mama comes home for dinner. He could take a chord that had a bastard relationship to the rest of the harmony, and, before you knew it, he has woven that bastard into the flock like it was supposed to be there all the time.”

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