Phil Schaap Jazz

Little-Known Facts About Bird

1. Curly Russell related to me that at The Three Deuces in Spring 1945, a drunk actually requested the perennial drunkard’s request, “My Melancholy Baby”. So, Dizzy said something like ‘What the hell; let’s play it’. Apparently, it went over well and, to some extent, the tune went into the repertoire of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet. Dizzy, in fact, recorded “My Melancholy Baby” on Joe Marsala’s January 12, 1945 session for Black & White. When Bird set up the June 6, 1950 record date with Dizzy and Curly, they recalled the night of the drunkard’s request and decided to record “My Melancholy Baby”. Subsequently, Dizzy confirmed Curly’s information; however, Gillespie’s earlier involvement with the piece may also be a factor, perhaps the primary one. 2. The lick/piece of a line that became “The String” when Sonny Stitt recorded with Roy Eldridge in October 1957 and then became very well-known via “The Eternal Triangle” when Stitt recorded alongside Dizzy and another Sonny (Rollins), comes from Bird’s improvisation on “Hallelujah” - the master take from Norvo’s session for Comet on June 6, 1945 - and also on Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts”, done for Guild on May 11, 1945 (though the phrase is less complete there). That’s where Stitt heard it, probably on both records and definitely from the master take of “Hallelujah”. Bird reutilized this bit on an alternate take of “Get Happy”, and hints at it at other times, too. The master take of “Hallelujah”, however, is THE root. 3. “Hen Gates” was Dizzy’s pseudonym on Bird’s November 26, 1945 date for Savoy. Dizzy was under exclusive contract with Guild/Musicraft and needed a pseudonym for what is largely piano playing by Diz on the session. How exactly Dizzy transferred the nickname to James Forman, his pianist of the late 1940s, is not well-documented; but Dizzy did call Jimmy Forman “Hen Gates” and the pianist was known by that moniker. 4. Melvyn “Mel” Broiles was the principal trumpeter for the Metropolitan Opera for nearly 40 years, but he had a Jazz past. Mel Broiles was a trumpet student of Howard McGhee in the mid 1940s, a period when Bird and “Maggie” were closely associated. Broiles participated in the legendary Home Cooking session at Chuck Copeley’s on Feb 1, 1947, a party held to celebrate Bird’s release from Camarillo, that turned into or included a jam session that was recorded. Later that month, on February 26, 1947, when Bird provided only one original (“Past Due”, soon to be known as “Relaxin’ At Camarillo”) where as many as four had been commissioned, Mel Broiles’ “Stupendous” - in Eb over “S'Wonderful” changes - was used along with two Howard McGhee originals to compensate for Parker’s being 3 tunes shy.