The Birdhouse Project: Free Bird (2007)
So overwhelming is the presence of Charlie Parker the musical innovator and alto sax soloist that the idea of Charlie Parker the composer is comparatively neglected. His music is addressed here by a trio of vibes, bass and drums and that's a crucial point in the sense that Parker's melodic sensibility emerges in a fashion that otherwise might not have been the case.
The other significant aspect of the set is ease. It's especially evident in the way this group addresses a line like "Red Cross," which they take at a medium-up-tempo that allows a whole new set of nuances to emerge. The bass-drums cartel of Tyrone Brown and Jim Miller are right in the pocket and Randy Sutin on vibes puts out lines that tend towards the understated; he has that rare ability to make every note count, however.
Freshness of approach is evident on "Moose the Mooch" to such a degree that it's almost like hearing the piece for the first time. It could thus be argued that this is repertory jazz of the highest order, but on a more profound level it makes the case also for Parker the composer and the love that these guys have for his work. Miller's work here has a down home feel that serves as evidence of how deep the roots of Parker's music are in African American culture.
On "Ah-Leu-Cha" the trio is arguably at its freest, making something of one of Parker's less well-defined lines at the same time as they're acutely aware of working in the moment.
"Cheryl" is taken at the kind of tempo in which the group seems to luxuriate and, in a sense, Sutin displays the influence of Walt Dickerson in the way his lines can seem enigmatically unresolved at the same time as his vocabulary is more than equal to the demands of the task at hand.
That feel might just be the consequence of how he relates and responds to Brown's input and this comes to the fore on "Au Privave," where they work as a duo over the course of just two-and-a-half minutes, and where Brown gets the chance to solo at the kind of up-tempo perhaps most readily associated with Parker.
The whole thing gets nothing short of joyous on "Barbados," where Sutin and Brown as a duo again get to work their way over a line that's never anything other than a positive affirmation of life.
The same can be said for this set. In keeping the length of the tracks down the group might have been consciously echoing the kind of restriction that Parker himself had to work under, but in so doing they've put out their thoughts on the man's glorious music in a way that grander gestures might only have jeopardized.
Track Listing: Relaxin' At Camarillo; Chasin' The Bird; Segment; Cheryl; Au Privave; Marmaduke; Moose The Mooch; Ah-Leu-Cha; Scrapple From The Apple; Donna Lee; Red Cross; Barbados; Free Bird.
Personnel: Randy Sutin: vibes; Tyrone Brown: bass; Jim Miller: drums.