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Billie's Bounce (1945)

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Origin and Chart Information
The title refers not to Billie Holiday but to Billie, the secretary for Billy Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie’s agent.

- Sandra Burlingame

Rank 112
Written by Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker’s F major blues, “Billie’s Bounce,” was recorded in November, 1945, for Savoy Records. His quintet included a young Miles Davis, Curley Russell on bass, Max Roach on drums, and Dizzy Gillespie (who doubled on piano). While many associate the title with Billie Holiday, Brian Priestley in Chasin’ the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker says that the title refers to Billie, the secretary of Dizzy’s agent Billy Shaw (the former trumpeter for whom Gillespie named his composition “Shaw ‘Nuff”).


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In his analysis of Parker’s style and his contribution to bop, Priestley says, “In fact, it is the absolute primacy of rhythmic variety in his playing which is now totally accepted--in theory, at any rate--as being one of his key achievements.” Priestley later points out that Parker’s music is highly compatible with Afro-Latin rhythm sections. “‘Billie’s Bounce’ or ‘Moose the Mooche’ can be played in Latin (or its soul and funk derivatives), without altering the melody line or the accentuation.”

Of Parker’s debut as a leader, author Thomas Owens in his book Bebop: The Music and the Players says, “[‘Billie’s Bounce’] follows the typical bebop blues plan of piano introduction, two unison theme choruses, solo choruses, and two more unison theme choruses. Parker plays a fine four-chorus solo as expected, Davis is adequate, and Max Roach’s fully idiomatic bebop percussion work is recorded well....” “Billie’s Bounce” entered the jazz repertoire almost immediately. This 12-bar blues is often cited as an example of Parker’s familiarity with early blues singers and horn men.

Eddie Jefferson added lyrics to the head and vocalized over a Parker solo on his recording Vocal Ease:

I’ve overlooked so many things
Through the years
Through my tears
Through the years
Then I went and opened my eyes,
You were my idea
Heaven with open arms.


More on Eddie Jefferson at JazzBiographies.com

Jon Hendricks also wrote lyrics to the tune and performs it with his daughter Michele on the DVD Tribute to Charlie Parker. Hendricks’ lyrics are a commentary on Parker’s composition. He differentiates between sad blues and upbeat blues and puts “Billie’s Bounce” in the uplifting category:

The blues are generally known to be very sad
Quite a drag
Never glad
Really in a sorrowful bag
But this one’s different
It’s a real happy tune.


More on Jon Hendricks at JazzBiographies.com

Instrumentalists who have recorded “Billie’s Bounce” include guitarists Jim Hall and Martin Taylor; saxophonists John Coltrane, Charles Lloyd, Dexter Gordon, and free jazz player Albert Ayler; pianists Michel Petrucciani, Keith Jarrett, Kirk Lightsey, and Denny Zeitlin; violinist Claude “Fiddler” Williams and drummers Jerry Granelli and Shelly Manne. The CD Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House contains two versions of the tune. Vocalists who have recorded “Billie’s Bounce” include Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, and Betty Roche.

- Sandra Burlingame

Recommendations for This Tune
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Lee Konitz
Very Cool
Universal Japan
Original recording 1957

Lee Konitz was one of the first post-bop alto saxophonists to take Charlie Parker’s innovations in a markedly different direction. As such it is fascinating to hear his melodic, creative improvisation on this song so closely associated with Parker himself.

Stan Getz
At the Opera House
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1957

This album features two takes of “Billie’s Bounce.” On each one tenor saxophonist Getz and trombone innovator Johnson solo extensively before joining forces for some remarkable collective improvisation. The Oscar Peterson-led rhythm section keeps things swinging and propulsive throughout.

Eddie Jefferson
Letter from Home
Original recording 1962

Vocalese pioneer Jefferson set the melody and Parker’s solo to words, and this track is a highlight among his multiple recordings of “Billie’s Bounce.” Johnny Griffin gets a moment in the sun as well with his assertive tenor saxophone.

Dexter Gordon Quartet
Bouncin' with Dex
Original recording 1975

Gordon’s unique voice and synthesis of the bebop tradition had come to full fruition by the 1970s and he dissects “Billie’s Bounce” with spirit and precision. This 1975 recording was cut in Copenhagen with a rhythm section featuring pianist Tete Montoliu, who also shines brightly.

Ella Fitzgerald with the Tommy Flanagan Trio
Montreux ‘77
Original recording 1977

No vocalist has ever handled the challenges of improvising over chord changes more authoritatively than Ella. Aided on this live recording by Tommy Flanagan’s trio, she tears into “Billie’s Bounce” on a level rivaling any instrumentalist.


- Noah Baerman

Betty Roche
Singin' and Swingin'
1992 Original Jazz Classics 1718
Original recording 1960
Jimmy Forrest on sax, Jack McDuff at the organ, and Bill Jennings on guitar: what more could a singer ask for on this bop celebration that spotlights Roche’s enthusiastic scatting?
Jerry Granelli
A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing
1993 Evidence 22057

Drummer Granelli presides over a hive of musical activity that features some exhilarating string work from guitarists Robben Ford and Bill Frisell and bass player Anthony Cox.
Shelly Manne
The Three and tThe Two
Original Jazz Classics 172
Original recording 1954
The dynamic, heavy duty duet between drummer Manne and pianist Russ Freeman highlights this disc. The intensity of the performance is so great that the listener can’t help but visualize the two musicians hunched over their instruments.
Milcho Leviev/Dave Holland
Up & Down
1999 MA Recordings
Original recording 1987
This live date featuring Bulgarian born pianist Leviev and bassist Holland was recorded in Tokyo. The rapport of these two virtuosos is palpable in their light-hearted exchange on “Billie’s Bounce.”

- Ben Maycock

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