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.