Charlie Parker Plays with Jazz Greats Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Lester Young & Ella Fitzgerald (1950)

In a post earlier this year, we showcased one of the few known sound films of Charlie Parker performing live. Above, we have another very rare clip, from 1950, with Parker, young upstart alto, trading lines with veteran tenor Coleman Hawkins. Buddy Rich plays drums, and Hank Jones and Ray Brown play piano and bass.

Parker looks characteristically cool between the distinguished poise of Hawkins and the boyish exuberance of natural bandleader Buddy Rich who, in the second tune, exudes much goofy enthusiasm as he destroys the snare drum. This take may be hard bop at its hardest, which makes Parker’s understated contest with Hawkins all the more vital, propelled by some of the most frenetic rhythms in jazz history.

There is much more after the first two takes, as a voiceover segment announces. The rhythm section gets a little time, then they’re joined by Bill Harris and Lester Young. And then, at 12:18, the already all-star cast gets rounded out by a scatting Ella Fitzgerald off stage left, leaned over Hank Jones’ piano. This is a hell of a fun performance to watch, whether you’re a student of bop, have a music-historical bent, or just love seeing live jazz at the top of its game.

Related Content:

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Ella Fitzgerald Sings ‘Summertime’ by George Gershwin, Berlin 1968

Miles Davis Plays Music from Kind of Blue Live in 1959, Introducing a Completely New Style of Jazz

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

  • Hank Chinaski

    Something’s really wrong here with Buddy Rich’s playing, and the way it syncs to the picture, don’t you think? It looks as if the scenes with him where inserted later – in a kind of making fun of the fact that it should be totally obvious to see matter?

  • Bob Griendling

    Who is the white saxophonist?

  • sfemet

    The announcer says it’s Flip Phillips. I’ve never heard of him before, but the man can swing!

  • Gyrofrog

    They had to pantomime this, which probably explains why Rich’s drums aren’t in synch. See

  • lamar halsted

    what is the title of the first song that was played? I have heard that (seemingly exact version of that) tune before, probably on a Verve recording and am trying to find it, but to no avail.