The Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 Review

Today, I am excited to be reviewing the Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 that has just been released by Hal Leonard.  This great book of transcriptions was created by Chris “Doc” Stewart who also transcribed the Sonny Rollins Omnibook  and the Cannonball Adderley Omnibook that I reviewed earlier last year.  Hal Leonard was kind enough to send me the Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 in Eb and Bb to review here on the site.

Before I get into the book, let me just say that Charlie Parker has had a huge impact on me as a sax player.  When I was in junior high school,  I was introduced to the saxophone playing of Charlie “Bird” Parker by my sax teacher.  It was 9th grade and up to that point all I had listened to was Spyro Gyra, Chuck Mangione, Dave Sanborn and the Yellowjackets.  My saxophone teacher told me that if I wanted to be good at jazz then I had to get the “Omnibook” and check out Charlie Parker.

I immediately went to the local music store and bought the Charlie Parker Omnibook and started working on it.  I have to admit that these solos were extremely hard and frustrating for my 9th grade brain to handle.  The hardest thing for me to figure out (besides all the fast notes and hard rhythms…..) was why Parker would play a certain lick or phrase over a specific chord.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it in my young mind.  I was learning all my chords from “Patterns for Jazz” by Jerry Coker and was learning what notes sounded good over what chords but when I looked at a Charlie Parker solo, I had trouble seeing how he was using these same notes.  It just seemed like he was playing whatever the heck he wanted to and it sounded great.  That’s what I wanted to do!

Youtube Links of Solos from Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 at bottom of page!

It wasn’t until many years later, when I was in college that I started to understand a bit more about what Parker was doing.  Even to this day, I am in awe when I hear a recording of his.  His lines are so harmonically rich.  His rhythmic ideas and displacements are mind boggling.  You just get a sense that he is playing whatever he wants, whenever he wants and he makes it sound great over the chords……….

The original Omnibook is still sitting on my desk within arms reach even after all these years.  I don’t think it has ever left my desk.  It is so important to me that to put it across the room on my book shelf just seems wrong.  I know that I will be reaching for it at any minute, so I keep it close at hand.   If I could only bring five music books to a desert island with me, the original Charlie Parker Omnibook would be one of them!

When I first heard that Hal Leonard was publishing a second Charlie Parker Omnibook with sixty new solos I was incredibly excited.  Sixty new Charlie Parker solos for me to dig into!  I couldn’t wait to get these books and dive in!

The Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2

The Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 is created with the same standard of excellence as the other Hal Leonard Omnibooks.  It is coil bound so it is easy to open on a music stand and it stays open and flat when you are reading from it.  The coils are big enough that it is easy to turn the pages quickly on the fly.  The book is 230 pages long and has 60 solos in it.  Here is the complete song list:

Bird Feathers • Bird of Paradise • Bird’s Nest • Body and Soul • Bongo Beep • Bongo Bop • Carvin’ the Bird • Cheers • Cherokee • Confirmation • Cool Blues • Crazeology • Dexterity • Dizzy Atmosphere • Drifting on a Reed • East of the Sun • Easy to Love • Embraceable You • Groovin’ High • Hallelujah • Hot House • I Get a Kick Out of You • I Remember You • I’ll Remember April • I’ve Found a New Baby • I’ve Got You Under My Skin • Indiana • Klactoveededstene • Little Willie Leaps • Liza • Love for Sale • Lover • Mango Mangue • Meandering • Move • My Heart Belongs to Daddy • My Heart Tells Me • My Old Flame • A Night in Tunisia • Oh, Lady Be Good • On a Slow Boat to China • Out of Nowhere • Quasimodo • Repetition • Rock Salt a/k/a Rocker • ‘Round Midnight • Salt Peanuts • Sippin’ at Bells • The Song is You • The Squirrel • Star Eyes • Stupendous • Swedish Schnapps • Sweet Georgia Brown • They Didn’t Believe Me • This Time the Dream’s On Me • Tiny’s Tempo • Visa • Wee (Allen’s Alley) • What is This Thing Called Love?

Youtube Links of Solos from Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 at bottom of page!

I found as many of these recordings as I could on Youtube and saved you about 2 hours and 20 minutes of your time by listing all the links I found at the bottom of this review. As I followed along with the Eb transcriptions, I quickly realized that one of the coolest aspects of this new Omnibook is that a lot of these tunes are standards.  You get to hear and see on the page what Charlie Parker chooses to play over many other keys.  As great as the original Charlie Parker Omnibook was,  all the solos in it are really in only a handful of keys and most of those are sharp keys (except Chi Chi and Donna Lee).  The new Omnibook still has a lot of solos in G, A and D but there is a lot more variety with the chord changes he is playing over than in the original Omnibook.

Here are a couple of highlights I noticed in the new Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2:

  • Bird of Paradise-basically the changes to All the Things You Are.  It’s great to hear Bird go to town over these standard changes.
  • Bird’s Nest-this tune is rhythm changes in G with a different bridge. You get to hear many of the tried and true Bird RC lines on this solo.
  • Body and Soul-recorded in 1941 which means Bird is like 21 years old.  Wow!  He kills it even at 21!  The classic solo of his on Cherokee was recorded later that same year and is in this book also. Love that solo!
  • Bongo Beep & Bongo Bop are two tunes I never heard before. They are on an A blues and are perfect solos if you want to learn how to play bebop lines on a blues.  You hear some Bird blues lines from the original Omnibook on these as well.
  • Cool Blues-Incredible solo also. You can hear Bird play a few popular quotes and the audience immediately respond which is cool.
  • I’ve Found a New Baby-more from the 21 year old Bird!  Classic!
  • Indiana-changes to Donna Lee.  Check out the lick on the first page, lines 3 & 4.  Love that! Parker ends the tune with Donna Lee.
  • Liza-man, the melody sounds rough but Bird’s solo kills!
  • My Heart Tells Me-another 21 year old Bird with what sounds like that same guitar player from the 1941 Cherokee clip.
  • My Old Flame-I have never heard this before. Beautiful effortless playing by Bird! A masterpiece!
  • Oh, Lady Be Good-19 or 20 year old Bird. This is the earliest recording I have heard.  He plays great but you can really hear the difference in his playing from then compared to later.
  • Out of Nowhere-for some reason listening to this one, I got a strong Phil Woods vibe.  Not sure why but I think Bird played some stylistic lines that maybe Mr. Woods picked up himself back in the day.
  • Sippin’ at Bells-Bird on tenor sax……(I prefer him on alto…….just sayin’)
  • Tiny’s Tempo-Another killin’ blues solo in Birds favorite key of G.
  • A Night in Tunisia-This is not the version with the infamous solo break but another version.  This break is just as deadly!  Bird even plays an altissimo A in this solo!!
  • East of the Sun-Great solo with string and horns behind Bird.
  • Meandering-a ballad where Bird plays some stunning beautiful lines.

These are just the tip of the iceberg.  I still have to get to many of the other tunes.  I will say that if you are like me and know your Omnibook really well, then checking out Volume 2 will pleasantly surprise you.  Before I received the book,  I honestly assumed that it would be filled with most of the same lines that Parker played in the original Omnibook but this is not the case at all. There is a lot of new interesting Bird material here that will blow your mind!

Youtube Links of Solos from Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 at bottom of page!

Here is a great paragraph that Chris “Doc” Stewart wrote in the preface of the book that has some great details in it:

“There are a few differences between the two Omnibook volumes worth mentioning.  Two titles have been repeated from the original book including Confirmation and Visa.  The first represents one of Bird’s biggest hits played in an entirely different fashion from the version in the original Omnibook and is one of his most outstanding solo performances of all time.  Transcribing the alternate Birdland version of Visa showcases my skillful use of technology to resurrect a solo that is incomplete and nearly inaudible.  I’ve included more ballad performances that are a must for any jazz alto player to know.  You will also appreciate some teenage Bird when you discover the obvious genius of what was to come from some early recordings.  The original Omnibook also contains sixty tunes, but all were written by Charlie Parker.  I have included many tunes by other authors in this volume. This permitted the last difference where I made an effort to include titles where we discover Bird approaching tunes with more complex chord changes and less common key signatures.  The original Omnibook clearly is a speed demon with several tunes exceeding 360 bpm (6 beats/sec)-although this volume still has several burners exceeding 300 bpm that will challenge the most adept player. You can the cool off with some ballads.

What you’re about to experience comes from thousands of hours of analysis and collaboration, and my love of jazz music, all tuned toward carrying on a legacy of the original Charlie Parker Omnibook in a new digital era.  It is my hope that it continues to be a major reference for students of jazz, professional musicians and music historians for years to come.”     Chris “Doc” Stewart

The Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2

The first thing I noticed about the Charlie Parker Omnibook is that Chris “Doc” Stewart went above and beyond in the details included in these transcriptions.  In many of the transcriptions, there are trumpet lines included, piano lines (many with the voicing written out), bass cues, snare hits and even french horn lines.  During the rests it tells you what instrument is soloing or if there is trading fours with drums going on.  All of these specifics make it so much easier to find where you are in the transcriptions.

Another great feature is that the melodies are included on every transcription.  Many transcriptions these days only include the solos because of copyright limitations but Hal Leonard has included these great melodies and written them out in detail.

There are a ton of articulation markings throughout each solo to help with how to play these solos like Charlie Parker.  As I look through the book I see all sorts of slurs, accents, staccato markings, ghost notes, grace notes, scooped notes, etc…….Although articulation markings are a great tool to help a student figure out how to articulate, they do make the page a bit more cluttered. I found myself missing the simplicity of the original Omnibook’s style of having no articulation markings at all.  I could just focus on the notes and then listen to Charlie Parker to see how he articulated them and try to copy what I heard.

It is also obvious that Chris “Doc” Stewart did not just fill in the known chords of each tune over the transcriptions but added the details of the chords even when there were alterations or substitutions.  You can easily see this as you look through each tune and compare the chords of each chorus. Many times there are differences in each chorus as you compare chords.  This is a cool feature for those of us interested in the harmonies going on behind these solos.

Youtube Links of Solos from Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2 at bottom of page!

The one element of the book layout that I wish was different,  is that the key signature is only on the first line of each page.  I understand why this was done for the sake of giving more space to the notes, but when I was reading the transcription many times I would forget the key signature, look at the beginning of the line and think it was in C.  I would then remember that the key signature is at the top of the page and have to look up there.  It’s not a big deal but just something I have to remember when reading the music.

I will also add that as a sax player that plays both alto and tenor saxophone, I prefer to read this book in Eb on alto sax.  It’s the lines Bird played with the same fingerings and range.  The Bb book is cool to read for tenor sax and trumpet but to keep the higher alto lines in the range of the tenor sax many of those lines are taken down an octave.  This usually means that the line might jump down or back up right in the middle of the line.  Honestly, this couldn’t be avoided unless you had the tenor part going way up into the altissimo.  Chris Stewart did a great job with the transposition aspect of the Bb and C books when you consider the range difficulties of these keys.

There is so much more I could write about,  I truly am in love with Charlie Parker’s playing and what is captured on these pages!  It is just a plethora of incredible new bop lines, licks, phrasings and melodic ideas that can be worked on for a lifetime.  Amazing work by Chris “Doc” Stewart who is actually a MD, Senior Consultant & Assistant Professor at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine!  Wow, all these transcriptions and he’s a doctor also!  I would have loved to have this book on my stand next to the original Charlie Parker Omnibook when I was a kid! Thanks Chris Stewart for what must have been thousands of hours of work!

Great job by Hal Leonard in publishing another great Omnibook in their collection that includes John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Pass, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and now Cannonball Adderley.  You can get the book from Amazon. (Hover your mouse over each ad below to see which instrument each book is for)

   Eb Omnibook     Bb Omnibook      C Omnibook

If you end up getting the Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2  please feel free to come back and share your thoughts and comments with all of us below.  If you have other thoughts about Charlie Parker, I would love to hear them also.  Thank you to Charlie Parker for who you were and your amazing contribution to jazz music and the saxophone.       Steve

Disclosure: I received the books mentioned above for free from Hal Leonard in the hope that I would perhaps review them here on my blog. If you purchase the book from any of the Amazon links above I will make a small commission that I will use to support this site.  Regardless, I only review saxophone related products that I enjoy and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.  Steve

Addition because I’m a nice guy………..(this took me 2 1/2 hours to find all these clips…….)

Youtube Links of Solos from Charlie Parker Omnibook Volume 2

Bird Feathers

Bird of Paradise

Bird’s Nest

Body and Soul

Bongo Beep

Bongo Bop

Carvin’ the Bird

Cheers

Cherokee

Confirmation

Cool Blues

Crazeology

Dexterity

Dizzy Atmosphere

Drifting on a Reed

East of the Sun

Easy to Love

Embraceable You

Groovin’ High

Hallelujah

Hot House

I Get a Kick Out of You

I Remember You

I’ll Remember April

I’ve Found a New Baby

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Indiana

Klactoveededstene

Little Willie Leaps

Liza

Love for Sale

Lover

Mango Mangue

Meandering

Move

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

My Heart Tells Me

My Old Flame

A Night in Tunisia

Oh, Lady Be Good

On a Slow Boat to China

Out of Nowhere

Quasimodo

Repetition

Rock Salt a/k/a Rocker

‘Round Midnight

• Salt Peanuts-Can’t find it.  If you do please send me a link.

Sippin’ at Bells

The Song is You

The Squirrel

Star Eyes

Stupendous

Swedish Schnapps

Sweet Georgia Brown

They Didn’t Believe Me

This Time the Dream’s On Me

Tiny’s Tempo

Visa-I can’t find this recording but here is a version of Chris Stewart playing it.

Wee (Allen’s Alley)

What is This Thing Called Love?

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 25 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar http://Mike%20J says

    WOW what a rush! Much like you (and I’m sure most sax players), the original omnibook was the foundation for my first and continuing jazz study. My copy is always near and annotated, torn, coffee spilled, etc. I always forget how transcendent Bird was and how relevant he still is.

    This new volume is a different beast than the first and I am in love all over again. The types of tunes make a big difference. It’s refreshing to see standards tackled by the master: how to take a standard and turn it inside out, play with the time, elevate it. And the live solos have a drastically different feel than Bird’s recorded solos. It’s a different playing experience listening and learning those solos.

    I think it’s a perfect partner to volume 1. Now if only I could get better quality recordings of some of these solos…

  2. Avatar http://Giuseppe says

    How many beautiful ballads and what a sound structure! I will certainly buy the II Charlie Parker Omnibook.
    Thanks Steve for your clip search. You really are a “Nice guy”!
    Giuseppe.

  3. Avatar http://Giuseppe says

    Although I now play the tenor, I think I will buy the E-flat version, so I will train myself to move my hands like Bird; Steve, do you think you could recommend me a good cheap alto with good value for money as a second instrument?

  4. Steve http://Steve says

    Giuseppe,
    I don’t know of a cheap alto sax but the one I suggest to students is a used Yamaha Yas-23. You can usually get a great condition one for like 450.00. They play pretty good and when you are done with it you can turn around and sell it for 450.00 again. I did this with two of my daughters who wanted to play sax. Didn’t lose any money on the deal either and they each got to try sax for a year or two. Steve

  5. Avatar http://Giuseppe says

    Thanks, Steve.
    Yamaha 23 is a good sax, I thought that even used ones cost more. One of my two tenors is a Yamaha Yts 62 bought new in 1987 and still looks new and sounds great, a little bright; however, for a alto sax, the brilliance does not hurt. The mod. Yts 23 I remember was the model a little less professional and it was brighter, but I remember it sounded very good.
    Thanks for the advice.
    Giuseppe.

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