The Passion of Charlie Parker review: An unexpected triumph
On paper, this doesn't sound promising: a series of Charlie Parker compositions sung by today's best-selling jazz vocalists, with lyrics based on Parker's life story. It's a tribute to the personnel involved that it works so well.
The core band from David Bowie's Blackstar – puckish saxophonist Donny McCaslin, guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Mark Guiliana – recreate Parker's confrontational bebop as dark, electric jazz, with Craig Taborn's keyboards adding space-age textures. The female singers direct their vocalese lyrics at Parker: Madeleine Peyroux turns Ornithology into a drowsy, adoring flirtation; Melody Gardot transforms Scrapple from the Apple into a music journalist's praise.
The male vocalists sing from Parker's point of view: Gregory Porter's Yardbird Suite tells of youthful genius burning out; actor Jeffrey Wright plays Bird as a growling, embittered junkie on the two most Blackstar-ish interpretations; while Kurt Elling's Moose the Mooch is a woozy hymn to Bird's dope dealer. An unexpected triumph.