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 (10)
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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.

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