"Yardbird Suite" is a bebop standard composed by jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker in 1946. The title derives from Parker's nickname "Bird", respectively "Yardbird". Far from being a suite, the song follows an AABA form. The "graceful, hip melody, became something of an anthem for beboppers."
Three Charlie Parker recordings
Although, like Bob Dorough wrote, fans used to follow Parker everywhere he played and often taped his performances, there are only three known recordings of Parker himself playing the tune. The first two were recorded with a septet at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on March 28, 1946. The session was supervised and produced by Ross Russell for his Dial Records label. Besides Parker on alto saxophone was Miles Davis on trumpet, Lucky Thompson on tenor saxophone, pianist Dodo Marmarosa, Arvin Garrison on rhythm guitar, bassist Vic McMillan, and Roy Porter on drums. The last take of the tune of originally four became the master (takes two and three are lost), released as 78 shellac single (D 1003).
Never copyrighted, the track was frequently reissued on single 10" EP and, since the mid-1950s, on LP on various labels, in most part together with Parker's other Dial recordings although often also on albums assigned to Miles Davis.
The third known recording of "Yardbird Suite" was a session at the home of Chuck Copely in Hollywood, on February 1, 1947. The track itself is incomplete and, like the two versions of "Lullaby in Rhythm" recorded that day, of poor quality, but nevertheless released on Spotlite, initially in 1972 on Lullaby in Rhythm Featuring Charlie Parker.
The Charlie Parker Septet's 1946 master recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.
Recordings by others
In 1947, a year after the original recording, Gil Evans had already written an arrangement for Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra in 1947, recorded with Lee Konitz on alto saxophone. Fellow bebop musicians like Al Haig, Bud Powell, Max Roach and Gene Ammons played and recorded the song as well as Gene Krupa with a big band arrangement by Gerry Mulligan in 1958.
Many of the recordings featuring the song are explicit tribute albums to Charlie Parker or a homage to the bebop revolution of the 1940s (cf. album titles in list below). Most interpretations follow the bebop or hard bop idiom. Exceptions may be e.g. The Modern Jazz Quartet that rewrote the song in their chamber music style (At Music Inn, Vol 2, 1958). Junior Cook played the tune quiet fast and ends his version citing John Coltrane, whereas Joe Lovano begins his twelve-minute-long interpretation as free floating ballad, then taking up speed in 6/8. Even former free jazz musicians like Archie Shepp and Anthony Braxton remember the avantgarde prior to them, but "pay tribute to the spirit and chance-taking of Charlie Parker rather than to merely recreate the past."
Compilations including all three versions by Charlie Parker
- Charlie Parker On Dial: The Complete Sessions (Spotlite, 1993)
- Complete Charlie Parker on Dial (Jazz Classics, 1996)
See also: Listing with credits for Charlie Parker's Savoy and Dial sessions
Cover versions and adaptations
- Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra (arranged by Gil Evans) – Robbins' Nest 7" EP (Columbia, 1947, several re-releases on LP by Columbia like The Thornhill Sound and The Real Birth of the Cool, and CD Tapestries on Affinity)
- Earl Coleman and His All Stars – "Yardbird Suite" single (Dial, 1948)
- Chet Baker & Stan Getz – L.A. Get-Together! (rec. 1953; Fresh Sound, 1992; reissued as Live at the Haig 1953, West Coast Live a.o.)
- Al Haig Trio – Al Haig Trio (Period, 1954)
- Bob Dorough – Devil May Care (Betlehem, 1956)
- Tal Farlow – The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow (Verve, 1956)
- Carmen McRae with Mat Mathews Quintet – By Special Request (Decca, 1956)
- Herbie Mann (featuring Phil Woods, Eddie Costa and Joe Puma) – Yardbird Suite (Savoy, 1957; reissued as Yardbird Flute and Be Bop Synthesis)
- Gerry Mulligan Quartet – Live in Stockholm, May 1957 (First released as bootleg in Italy, n.d.)
- Art Pepper – Art Pepper with the Red Norvo Trio (Aladdin, 1957; re-rel. on Blue Note a.o.)
- Mose Allison – Creek Bank (Prestige, 1958)
- Hampton Hawes with Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell – Four! (Contemporary,1958)
- Gene Krupa Big Band – Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements (Verve, 1958)
- Warne Marsh – Warne Marsh (Atlantic, 1958)
- The Modern Jazz Quartet The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn Volume 2 (Atlantic, 1958)
- Bud Powell – Bud Plays Bird (1958)
- Pete Rugolo and His Orchestra – An Adventure in Sound-Reeds (Mercury, 1958; mono LP released as Reeds in Hi-Fi)
- Marty Paich – Revel Without a Pause (Interlude, 1959; reissued as A Jazz Band Ball)
- Max Roach – The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker (Mercury, 1959)
- Buddy Rich and His Orchestra (arranged and conducted by Ernie Wilkins) – Richcraft (Mercury, 1959)
- Gene Ammons & Dodo Marmarosa – Jug & Dodo (Prestige, 1962, first released in 1972)
- Sonny Stitt – Stitt Plays Bird (Atlantic, 1964)
- Jimmy McGriff – Fly Dude (Groove Merchant, 1972)
- Gene Ammons – Gene Ammons and Friends at Montreux (Prestige, 1973)
- Supersax – Salt Peanuts (Capitol, 1974)
- Al Cohn & Zoot Sims – Motoring Along (Sonet, 1975)
- Junior Cook – Pressure Cooker (Affinity, 1977)
- Al Haig – Duke 'n' Bird (East Wind, 1977)
- Jamey Aebersold – All "Bird" (JA, 1978)
- The Heath Bros. – Passing Thru... (Columbia, 1978)
- Paulo Moura Quarteto – Paulo Moura Quarteto (Equipe, 1978)
- Art Pepper, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Harold Land, John Klemmer, Joe Farrell and rhythm section – 5 Birds and a Monk (Galaxy, 1978) with Art Pepper playing "Yardbird Suite"
- Joe Albany – Bird Lives! (Interplay, 1979)
- Joe Temperley & Jimmy Knepper – Just Friends (HEP, 1979)
- Sadao Watanabe – Bird of Paradise (Flying Disc, 1979; Inner City, 1980)
- Archie Shepp & Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen – Looking at Bird (SteepleChase, 1981)
- Richie Cole – Alive! At the Village Vanguard (Muse, 1982)
- Howard McGhee & Teddy Edwards – Young at Heart (Storyville, 1983)
- Anthony Braxton – Seven Standards 1985, Volume II (Magenta, 1986)
- The Paul Smith Trio – Charlie Parker for Piano (Granite, 1987)
- Barbara Dennerlein – Tribute to Charlie (Koala, 1987)
- Ran Blake & Anthony Braxton – A Memory of Vienna (hatART, 1988)
- Ted Brown Trio with Hod O'Brien and Jacques Schols – Free Spirit (Criss Cross, 1989)
- Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Cecil Payne, Duke Jordan, Ron Carter, Roy Haynes – Birdology – Tribute to Charlie Parker (Verve, 1989)
- The Paris All-Stars (Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean, Phil Woods, Stan Getz, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Percy Heath, Max Roach) – Homage to Charlie Parker (A&M, 1990)
- Moscow Sax Quintet – Parker's Mood (Melodia, 1991)
- Anthony Braxton – Anthony Braxton's Charlie Parker Project (hatART, 1993)
- Kenny Burrell – Then Along Came Kenny (rec. 1993; Evidence, 1996)
- The Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride/Stephen Scott Trio – Parker's Mood (Verve, 1995)
- Kevin Mahogany – You Got What It Takes (Enja, 1995) with Benny Golson
- Monica Zetterlund – Sista gången du var med (National, 2006)
- Remeo Hailey Jones – Stanish with Everyone (Relamo, 2008) with PaRappa
- Jimmy Heath Big Band – Togetherness (Live at the Blue Note) (rec. 2011; Jazz Legacy, 2013) with Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart a.o., arranged by Heath
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (1999-10-13). "Footlights". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- "Dodo Marmarosa". The Daily Telegraph. 2002-09-13. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- Zwerin, Mike (2006-01-11). "Music to Pack Away for That Desert Island". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- Jack Chambers: Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis. Da Capo Press. Boston, 1998. ISBN 978-0-306-80849-4. Pt. I, p. 48
- Bob Dorough in the liner notes to the re-release of his album Yardbird Suite. Bethlehem Records, BCP-6023, 1976.
- Dial Records numerical listing on 78discography.com.
- Charlie Parker session index on Jazzdisco.org
- Cf. Brian Priestley: Jazz on Record: A History. Elm Tree Books. London, 1988. ISBN 978-0241124406. P. 99?
- Hollywood, February 1, 1947 session as listed on Jazzdisco.org
- Anthony Braxton's Charlie Parker Project 1993 review by Scott Yanow at AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2015.