Friday, April 8, 2011

Bird at The Three Deuces (1948)

Recently, the wonderful Phil Schaap has posted several more installments of his (almost) daily radio show, Bird Flight on WKCR, to his online radio pagehere. Now if you are a fan of Charlie Parker and you are not familiar with Phil, I cannot urge you strong enough to give him some ear time. There are few people on the face of this earth that are able to marry such enthusiasm and scholarly knowledge of The Great One (Bird, with apologies to Wayne Gretzky).

The episode in particular that has caught my attention is from February 2, 2011 - incidentally his 41st Anniversary broadcast. You can listen to it here. Do note that you can download these for private use. In fact, I strongly suggest dropping it on your iPod/iPhone and taking a long walk outside. But I digress...

The gist of this particular installment is the argument offered that in March of 1948, Charlie Parker was at the peak of his musical prowess and his combo at that time - Charlie Parker and The All Stars - were never to be bettered. Highly subjective of course. But Schaap not only provides aural evidence by way of the Dean Benedetti recordings of the combo recorded at The 3 Deuces in NYC on 52nd Street. On top of that he has the written testimony of combo member Miles Davis, plus first-hand recollections from both Lennie Tristano and Tal Farlow, both of whom played interval combos opposite Parker's headlining combo at The Deuces. Bird at the top of his game? Perhaps. Give it a listen and give it some thought.

Subjective opinions aside, the most is compelling. Bird is easily in one of his most fluid and energetic modes and the excitement is still palpable - in spite of the low fidelity of the recordings (or computer speakers for that matter).

Here are a few images I trawled to give Schaap's narration some visual reference...

First, here is 52nd Street, in color, courtesy of photographer William Gottlieb in 1947 or 1948. We are looking East towards 5th Avenue. The 3 Deuces is on the South side of the street on our right...


Next, here is a close-up of the Deuces during the very engagement in question...


Next a somewhat familiar but still beautiful shot of Bird in flight, again courtesy of Gottlieb, quite likely shot during the same 1948 engagement...


Low res, I know, but here is a fairly rare shot of the All Stars on stage at the club. Nice bow tie, Miles. In fact, notice how everyone is wearing light-toned suits...


And finally, here is a shot of The Bill Harris-Charlie Ventura combo included only to show everyone just how damn small that stage was at The Deuces. Wow! I will never complain about a lack of square footage on a gig again...


Note: Schaap's broadcast does include the entire set of recordings from the March 31, 1948 date in question. Just be patient, he will get to them. It's just Phil's way of doing things.

2 comments:

emme said...

Hello Nick, I'd like to use in my Facebook the photo of the 3 Deuces (a really nice historical shot). Do you know who is the photographer so I can quote him?

Nick Rossi said...

With the exception of the grainy shot of Parker's full group on stage at the club, all of the photos are by William Gottlieb. I was not able to find who the photo credit for the other picture.