Alto saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker was playing his composition “Confirmation” as early as 1945 when he appeared at Billy Berg’s club in Los Angeles. Actually it could have been written five years earlier when Bird was with Jay McShann’s territorial band in Kansas City.
Bird and Dizzy Gillespie recorded several sessions in California between January 1945 and February 1946. Gillespie is sometimes credited as co-composer, but in Charlie Parker: His Music and Life author Carl Woideck says that in a 1949 article Parker accused Gillespie’s managers of tacking his name onto Parker compositions such as “Confirmation.” Dizzy’s California band recorded “Confirmation” in February 1946 but without Parker who failed to show up for the session.
“The first released version of ‘Confirmation’ was taken from a broadcast of a 1947 Carnegie Hall performance that featured Parker and Dizzy Gillespie,” according to the liner notes by Richard Seidel for Parker’s Now’s the Time, his only studio recording of “Confirmation,” recorded on August 4, 1953, with Al Haig on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Max Roach on drums.
In Bird Lives! The High Life and Hard Times of Charlie “Yarbird” Parker author Ross Russell, also the owner of Dial Records which recorded Parker in 1946, attempted to help Parker by setting up a publishing company to copyright his compositions. But in 1954 an attorney hired by Parker... “found the matter a hopeless tangle of unexecuted agreements, breached contracts, and uncopyrighted material.”
After Parker’s death in 1955 a legal battle over his estate was pursued by his common-law wife and the mother of his children, Chan Parker, and his wife, Doris, whom he’d never divorced. “Summons were served on sixty-nine incredulous and indignant persons and firms in the phonograph record, concert bureau, booking, and music publishing industries...” says Russell. To further complicate the issue of royalties, Charlie’s missing second wife Geraldine showed up in 1960 with a marriage certificate and a sworn statement saying that the marriage had never been dissolved.
Some of his compositions had been sold outright and others were in the public domain and not copyrighted because Parker had never executed the Dial contract authorizing the publishing company. It was a mess, and this explains the discrepancies between the performance dates and copyright dates of Parker’s material.
In her 1975 release, Confirmation, vocalist Sheila Jordan sings the Parker tune with lyrics by Skeeter Spight and Leroy Mitchell (the latter not credited in the liner notes). She performs the light-hearted lyric of love with bassist Cameron Brown, pianist Alan Paqua, and drummer Beaver Harris.
Jordan told jazzstandards.com, “‘Confirmation’ is a 32-bar original by Bird and is not based on any other tune. No one that I know of sings it but me except maybe students who have studied with me. I teach it but most of them never approach it. The lyrics were written by Skeeter Spight and Leroy Mitchell, the two singers who taught me how to scat in Detroit in the mid-forties. They were fantastic singers.
”It was difficult because they were Afro-Americans and me being white made the racial tension and the cops in Detroit very, very uncomfortable. I was always at the police station or being stopped in cars or on the street for mixing with my friends. I needed to be near the music, and I didn’t care what it cost. It was a very difficult period in my life but I knew they were wrong about the racial prejudice. In the long run I won out because I was not living in a color world, and I got a whole new life from Bird and the black community of Detroit at that early time in my life.
”I know Jay [Clayton] put this on one of her CD’s for kids to learn but the lyrics were never credited. This lyric writing to bebop tunes was a beginning, and I am sure Eddie Jefferson was doing it too, but so were Mitch and Skeeter (as they were called), and at that time we were not aware of anyone else doing this.”
Pianist Bill Charlap recorded “Confirmation” on his 1995 CD Souvenir. The song was a staple in the repertoire of the Modern Jazz Quartet which included it on The Complete Last Concert CD. Since 1999 it has been recorded by the Heath Brothers; guitarist Larry Coryell; saxophonists Bobby Watson, Frank Morgan, and Richie Cole; pianists Steve Kuhn, Stanley Cowell, Don Friedman, and Chick Corea; vibraphonist Milt Jackson; and drummer Billy Hart.