When the beboppers played Swing Era tunes

Have you ever heard a live recording of Charlie Parker? They have a special charm because most of them were recorded in small clubs and they have a real “sense of place.” You can hear the audience talking, the clinking of glasses, and sometimes, you can listen to Charlie Parker himself going to the microphone and introducing the next tune. These recordings are the closest thing we have to going back to 52nd Street in 1940s-50s New York City and hearing Bird in person. (People who were there have told me it was thrilling!)

As much as I love all the tunes Parker played live, I admit that there’s a certain type of piece that always makes me smile. It’s when he played an “older” Swing Era tune or a pop song of the day.

“Broadway” is one of these tunes. It’s riff-oriented, and it’s the kind of tune that Parker played in his formative years, when he was practicing 12-15 hours a day (by his own estimate) in Kansas City or as a member of Jay McShann’s big band.

First, have a listen to the Count Basie Orchestra recording:

Broadway: Count Basie

And now hear Charlie Parker play it:

Broadway: Charlie Parker

I’ve made my own version, too, and used elements of the big band arrangement such as block chords, as well as some bebop-like chordal reharmonizations.

Broadway: Journey Through The Real Book #47

The tune Broadway wasn’t in the original Real Book, but luckily they’ve included it in recent editions. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re in for a treat!

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