Charlie Parker Plays with Dizzy Gillespie in the Only Footage Capturing the “Bird” in True Live Performance

Here’s a his­toric TV broad­cast of the found­ing fathers of bebop, Char­lie Park­er and Dizzy Gille­spie, play­ing togeth­er in 1952. It’s one of only two known sound films of Park­er playing–and the only one of him play­ing live, rather than synch­ing to a pre­re­cord­ed track.

The per­for­mance is from a Feb­ru­ary 24, 1952 broad­cast on the pio­neer­ing DuMont Tele­vi­sion Net­work. The full seg­ment begins with a brief cer­e­mo­ny in which Park­er and Gille­spie receive awards from Down Beat mag­a­zine, but the clip above cuts straight to the music: a per­for­mance of the bebop stan­dard “Hot House,” com­posed by Tad Dameron around the har­mon­ic struc­ture of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?.”

The quin­tet includes Park­er on alto sax­o­phone, Gille­spie on trum­pet, Sandy Block on bass, Char­lie Smith on drums and Dick Hyman on piano.

It was Hyman, who had played with Park­er and had his own night­ly show on the DuMont net­work, who helped orga­nize the appear­ance. In a 2010 inter­view with Jazz­Wax, Hyman talked about what it was like play­ing on the show with Park­er and Gille­spie. “It was togeth­er,” he said. “Those guys played with such a good time and feel. It’s a ter­rif­ic per­for­mance con­sid­er­ing it was a pop show with just two cam­eras.”

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Comments (11)
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  • What trea­sure you have unearthed. Such aplomb and cre­ative flow. One thins though, sure­ly that’s Max Roach on drums? Or is Char­lie Smith just a pseu­do­nym?

    • Mike Springer says:

      Hi Bri­an,
      All the sources I found list the drum­mer as Char­lie Smith, includ­ing the Jazz­Wax inter­view that I link to in the last para­graph, in which pianist Dick Hyman says, “We engaged drum­mer Char­lie Smith for that show and Sandy Block was on bass.” Here’s a pho­to of Smith from about 1955. Looks like the same guy.

  • Etienne says:

    My father was only one year old when this was record­ed. Yet, this is tru­ly mod­ern music, 61 years lat­er. Amaz­ing. Impro­vis­ing is rather easy if you know your instru­ment and you have ears. This is not impro­vis­ing but play­ing a thight com­po­si­tion to the milisec­ond. That dis­ci­pline cre­ates mag­ic. Wow.

  • stefano doglioni says:

    thanks for hav­ing dis­cov­ered hot water

  • bert says:

    Won­der­full video,
    great music

  • Sunnyboy says:

    Char­lie Smith is left hand­ed, I believe Max Roach is right hand­ed. That music feels good.

  • Gladys (Smith) Brown says:

    That IS Char­lie Smith on drums! He is my broth­er; father to Jeanette (Smith) Veney and son of Thomas P. and Gladys V Smith. He was left hand­ed. His last (so far known to me) record­ing was the Cat­bird Seat with Mitchell Ruff Duo. Charles was always in the stu­dio record­ing! A con­sum­mate side­man! If you love jazz, lis­ten to some of his oth­er record­ings; you’ll find him in the lin­er notes.

  • john de leone says:

    Char­lie ( charles ) smith was my drum teacher in New Haven CT in the 60s.I was sent to be taught by him by my for­mer teacher Jim Stavris. JIM said that Charles would be per­fect for me. He was right.Charles was sen­sa­tion­al.

  • Fernbacher says:

    Isn’t that actu­al­ly Knuck­les O’Toole on the piano?

  • Dave Charles says:

    I had the plea­sure of play­ing with Sandy Block at the Tami­ment resort in the Poconos.

  • mischa says:

    Dear Mike,

    I found the video and your expla­na­tion on YT. I have a ques­tion, though: Was this part of Earl Wilsons show “Stage Entrance”, which he host­ed on mon­days 8pm in 1951 dn 1952? Then the broad­cast date should have been Feb 25. If not: Could you enlight­en me in which pro­gram this was includ­ed?

    Just in case: I am a his­to­ri­an work­ing on sub­ver­sive aspects of music in the 20th cen­tu­ry, and I am try­ing to get my sources right…

    Thanks in advance, best wish­es


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.