April 12, 1951: Bird’s Jam Session at Christy’s
Charlie Parker and friends were caught on tape at a jam session at Christy’s on April 12, 1951.
Eddie Curran ran a supper club on Route 9 in Framingham called Christy’s. Big jazz fan that he was, he liked nothing better than to invite the musicians in after closing time for a party and a late-night blowing session. These jam sessions were the stuff of legend, with up-and-coming local guys playing until dawn alongside the leading lights of modern jazz.
There was a house band of sorts, led by alto saxophonist Boots Mussulli; pianist Dick Twardzik, drummer Roy Haynes, trumpeter Howard McGhee, and multi-instrumentalist Dick Wetmore were often on the bandstand. Trumpeters as diverse as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bobby Hackett all took their turns. Oscar Pettiford was there, and Gigi Gryce, and one night the whole Stan Kenton Orchestra showed up.
Sometimes sessions were taped, although they were strictly amateur recordings, and the results suffer from the ills common to such efforts, like background noise and abrupt starts and stops. Some of this music was released on The Happy Bird, an LP (PLP 404) from the label named after Bird, Charlie Parker Records. This is the session of interest, recorded at Christy’s on April 12. Playing with Parker were McGhee, alto saxophonist Bill Wellington, tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray, and an all-Boston rhythm section of pianist Nat Pierce, bassist Jack Lawlor, and drummer Joe MacDonald.
Three of the April 12 tunes ended up on the LP: “Happy Bird Blues,” “Scrapple From The Apple,” and “Lullaby In Rhythm.” “Happy Bird Blues” is an incomplete cut with neither beginning nor end. We hear Parker’s solo, backed by the rhythm section, and it is more than enough to demonstrate how exciting it must have been to hear Bird live: