On April 12, 1951, Charlie Parker and friends were caught on tape at a jam session at Christy’s Restaurant in Framingham, Mass. The music is still readily available over 70 years later.
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.
Alto saxophonist Boots Mussulli worked at Christy’s often, with pianist Danny Kent. 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. One story has it that one night the whole Stan Kenton Orchestra showed up to visit the ex-Kentonite Mussulli.
Some sessions were taped, presumably by Curran, and the quality is uneven. There are background noises and abrupt starts and stops. The April 12 session with Parker is one that made it to tape. Playing with Parker were McGhee, tenor saxophonists Wardell Gray and Bill Wellington, and an all-Boston rhythm section of pianist Nat Pierce, bassist Jack Lawlor, and drummer Joe MacDonald. Some of their music was released in 1961 by Charlie Parker Records on LP as The Happy Bird (PLP 404). The three April 12 tunes were “Happy Bird Blues,” “Scrapple From The Apple,” and “Lullaby In Rhythm,” although “Lullaby” was incorrectly titled as “I May Be Wrong.” It is also the only tune on which Boston tenorman Wellington plays.
A visit to The Happy Bird’s discogs.com page shows over 20 various reissues of this material.
“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 the excitement at the jam session at Christy’s that night.