Nick Biello On ‘Charlie Parker with Strings’

Nick Biello, Saxophonist

Nick Biello, Saxophonist

“Charlie Parker with Strings” rates as one of the greatest jazz recordings, mainly due to the revolutionary pairing of a serious jazz improviser with accessible, commercial arrangements of popular standards in a chamber ensemble setting. Even beyond the historical importance of these sessions, Parker’s playing on those recordings represents the highest mastery of the alto saxophone. So, as an alto saxophonist, I jumped at the chance to perform selections from “Charlie Parker with Strings.” It’s not everyday that such an opportunity presents itself. The sheet music is hard to come by and even more so, putting together an ensemble with a similar orchestration presents logistical challenges. I feel very grateful to Ross and Jeff for tabbing me for this.

The Preparation

Preparing for this performance was an enjoyable experience in and out of itself. As I began to study Charlie Parker’s playing on the original recording, I found myself vacillating between playing the solos note for note, or identifying and playing some of the key motifs while adding my own ideas. After lots of deliberation, I eventually decided to go with the latter. I realized that I could never play “Bird” as good as the man himself.

Performing with Highline

The gig was a real pleasure! As usual, the Highline Chamber Ensemble sounded beautiful. When I heard that famous harp gliss at the beginning of Just Friends, complete with shimmering tremolos and that unmistakable cello solo, I must admit that I felt chills. And the sold-out audience was attentive, enthusiastic, and seemed to enjoy the experience as much as I did. It was truly a remarkable project that I’m honored to have been a part of.

Charlie Parker With Strings – ‘Summertime’

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Check out Nick playing ‘Just Friends’ with Highline live at our Mad Men concert.

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