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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”).


More on Charlie Parker at JazzBiographies.com

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

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “Billie’s Bounce”

Original Key F major
Form Through-composed; 12-bar blues
Tonality Major throughout
Movement Highly arpeggiated in both directions; some stepwise movement.

Comments (assumed background)

A “be-bop” head over a variation of the 12-measure blues progression in which a I - VI - II - V7 substitutes for V7 -V7 - IV7 - IV in the last six measures.

Editor’s note: See the Musicians’ Comment section on this page.

K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
Musicians' Comments

An analysis of Parker’s solo on “Billie’s Bounce,” as well as some comments on devices often used in his blues solos, can be found on my blog (click here).

Regarding K. J. McElrath’s comment,

A “be-bop” head over a variation of the 12-measure blues progression in which a I - VI - II - V7 substitutes for V7 -V7 - IV7 - IV in the last six measures.

There’s something not quite right here--if we are talking about mm. 7-10, then the I-VI-II-V7 part is sort of correct, although the pianist doesn’t exactly do this (see my blog post). But the V7-V7-IV7-IV part of this statement just doesn’t correspond to these measures. Does he mean mm. 9-10, V7 to IV7 -?

Peter Spitzer, Saxophonist

I used “Billie’s Bounce” along with “Chi-Chi” and “Buzzy” as a three part counterpoint, overdubbed and retitled “A Bird In The Hand” on a Jardis records release of the same name, back in 1998. It’s an interesting effect when you listen in the cracks of the counterpoint; you start to hear a 4th composite melody emerge from the counterpoint.

Steve Rochinski, Guitarist, Composer, Arranger, Author, Professor, Harmony Dept., Berklee College of Music

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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Billie's Bounce" may be found in:

Thomas Owens
Bebop: The Music and Its Players
Oxford University Press, USA

(Contains history and analysis of song.)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

With the advent of long-playing records and then compact discs, record companies began to release unissued “out-takes” from historic sessions---versions that some musicians (like Duke Ellington) felt shouldn’t be released. But these recordings are priceless to jazz history and to students of the music. There are now five versions available of Charlie Parker’s premier of “Billie’s Bounce” for Savoy Records in 1945. The sum total adds up to one undeniable conclusion: Charlie Parker was an endlessly creative jazz musician. Whereas some musicians carefully honed their solos to get a “perfect” one, Parker’s solos are unique expositions.

Ben Webster, the swing-era tenor saxophone giant who made his mark with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, was by 1953 a solo artist working with a variety of different groups. The pairing of him with the early Modern Jazz Quartet was both fortuitous and triumphant; they worked together like hand in glove, as is evident on “Billie’s Bounce.”

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Charlie Parker
The Charlie Parker Story
Savoy Jazz

Ben Webster/Modern Jazz Quartet
1953: An Exceptional Encounter
Jazz Factory

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Billie's Bounce.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Charlie Parker’s original 1945 recording of “Billie’s Bounce” (The Charlie Parker Story) is not only the definitive recording of this tune but one of the definitive recordings of the entire bebop movement. A thorough study of this song largely begins and ends with Parker’s recording -Take 5 is the one that rocked the jazz world, though hearing his solos on the alternate takes is illuminating. Among the other interpretations of the tune, Dexter Gordon (Bouncin’ With Dex) and Ella Fitzgerald (Montreux ’77) both demonstrate quite well the way in which this song has been integrated into the jazz repertoire.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
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

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Charlie Parker

Year Rank Title
1945 112 Billie's Bounce
1946 168 Yardbird Suite
1953 218 Confirmation
1947 271 Scrapple from the Apple
1945 354 Now's the Time
1948 488 Parker's Mood
1951 523 Au Privave
1951 587 My Little Suede Shoes
1948 627 Barbados
1946 699 Moose the Mooche
1948 733 Big Foot
1947 748 Relaxin' At Camarillo
1947 799 Chasin' the Bird
1953 810 Bloomdido
1947 859 Dexterity
1947 895 Cheryl
1945 978 Red Cross

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

Year Rank Title
1946 483 Anthropology
1945 601 Shaw Nuff

Bennie Harris and Charlie Parker

Year Rank Title
1946 462 Ornithology

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