I think what follows is just amazing, and it’s not inflated pride at having been the one who brought the camera and clipped the microphone to Dan’s shirt. The first-hand sources in any field are few and precious. Of course, there are many borrowers and interpreters, capable people who weren’t on the scene but are ready to theorize. “Nay nay,” to quote Louis.
Jazz, so long viewed as “entertainment,” did not get the serious coverage it deserved for its first decades. Thus we could search in vain for an interview with Bubber Miley or A.G. Godley. And few people wrote their memoirs of involvement with Jimmie Blanton or Don Murray or Larry Binyon . . . but we have Dan, who was there and has a good memory. And he has a novelist’s gift for arranging those memories in pleasing and revealing shapes.
When the subject is Charlie Parker, so many recollections of Bird veer between adulation for the musician and a superior attitude towards a man often portrayed as suffering from borderline personality disorder. Thus Dan’s gentle affectionate inquiring attitude is honest and delightful. His memories of Bird go back to the Three Deuces, the Royal Roost, Cafe Society, Bob Reisner’s Open Door, with strings at Birdland with Dizzy’s unsolicited clowning, his “last stand” at Birdland where Bud Powell could not accomplish what was needed, and a “miraculous” one on one encounter late in Bird’s life, balanced by a kind of exploitative incident in which Dan’s friend Nat Lorber was the victim, as well as a sad story of Bird’s late attitude towards life, and a portrait of the Baroness Nica.
Since Dan’s first-hand involvement with Bird was in the latter’s last years, I offer a very early Bird as a counterbalance — the recordings Parker made in Kansas City c. 1943 with the legendary guitarist Efferge Ware and drummer “Little Phil” Phillips, the latter celebrated by Bob Brookmeyer in his memories of K.C. Thanks to Nick Rossi for reminding me of this.
Thank you, Dan. And thank you. Once is insufficient.
May your happiness increase!