By Howard Mandel | Published December 2021
The result of a pandemic-driven deep dive into the brilliance of Charlie Parker, Kevin Sun’s <3 Bird is an original, witty, engaging take on the great bebop co-founder’s legacy. Over 15 mostly brief tracks realized with compatible collaborators, gifted reedist Sun admiringly identifies, shuffles and re-folds melodic strains, rhythmic strategies and harmonic implications derived from specific bits of Parker’s recorded ouevre — music that jazz has now drawn on for some 75 years — into revelatory and entertaining new sounds and shapes.
Impressively, though, this album stands on its own. The close-but-loose horn interactions of Sun and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill may recall Bird and Dizzy Gillespie, Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, Steve Coleman and Jonathan Finlayson, or just two pals tossing friendly riffs back and forth, and is equally satisfying in any case. There are conceptual reconfigurations of such classics as “Klact-oveeseds-tene,” but without knowledge of the sources the fleet instrumental play and interplay is still fine.
Sun’s saxophone sound is lighter than Parker’s and more upright than headstrong, but he’s virtuosic and emotive, too. He uses his clarinet sparely and the Chinese cheng mouth organ briefly on “Du Yi’s Choir.” Guitarist Light is heard on tracks where subtle pianist Li (check out his time-stopping solo and unusual comping on “Dovetale”) is absent; he proves adept at fast tempos like on “Onomatopoeia,” as is bassist Stinson and drummer Honor, deft, full but not overpowering. <3, by the way, means “love” or “heart,” appropriate for this project of meticulous yet playful devotion.
Love Bird: Greenlit; Adroitness, Part I; Adroitness, Part II; Composite; Onomatopoeia; Dovetail; Cheroot; Du Yi’s Choir; Big Foot; Sturgis; Schaaple (intro); Schapple From The Appel; Salt Peanuts; Arc’s Peel; Talk-overseed-nete (Klackct-oveereds-tene). (43:19)
Personnel: Sun, tenor saxophone, clarinet, sheng; Adam O’Farrill, trumpet (9–13); Max Light, guitar (5, 8, 15); Christian Li, piano and Fender Rhodes (2–4, 6, 9, 13); Walter Stinson, bass; Matt Honor, drums.
Ordering Info: endectomorph.com