I'm doing some of this from the apocrypha folder's memory, so any mistakes will have to be fixed
There was the war, when shellac for records was in short supply; there was a self-imposed
ban (starting in the summer of 1942) by the American Federation of Musicians on doing commercial recordings, in other words,
a strike, over the issue of musician royalties. So there was little or no official recording activity during
those years, aside from V-discs made for the Yanqui troopses overseas and such (plus some late-night
scab activity); there are radio broadcasts that are now preserved, but they were never meant to be put on
the market as records. Frank Sinatra had a hit (as the singer with Tommy Dorsey's big band), with "I'll
Never Smile Again", sidestepping the ban by doing the song a capella with a vocal group -- no musicians.
Singers aren't musicians :)
The ban was lifted at the end of 1944; some up-and-coming musicians lost out on a possible chance at
stardom during the ban years -- the Earl Hines band had included people like Billy Eckstine, Sarah
Vaughan (doubling as a pianist as well as a singer), Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. If they'd had a
recording contract, they might well have been the hippest big band around.
So now it's 1945, Savoy Records has signed Parker to a contract, and he's in a Manhattan recording studio on November
26th for the first time as a leader, with the intention of recording four tunes -- the A and B-sides to a pair
of 78-rpm discs. It's a quintet -- Parker, teenage trumpeter Miles Davis, Bud Powell on piano, Curley
Russell on bass, and Max Roach on the drums. But Powell can't make it to the recording date -- he's in
Philadelphia with his mother. Argonne Thornton (later to be known as Sadik Hakim) is supposed to be
there as Bud's replacement, but he isn't there either; Gillespie, accompanying his friend Parker on this
auspicious occasion, will deputise the deputy pianist -- he has the chops to do it, despite only being
known as a trumpeter.
It's time to start; no sign of Hakim yet. Diz is at the piano, but young Miles is having trouble with the intro to
"Cherokee", a furious trumpet/alto sax duet over the drums. So Diz takes over on trumpet, leaving no pianist, but that's
OK. The intro is handled fine, with short solos for the two horn players, then they launch into the tune's
actual melody. Someone -- maybe Savoy's Teddy Reig -- brings the recording to a halt after a couple of
bars; you can almost hear him leap out of the control room chair and onto the studio floor, whistling the
proceedings to a stop. Reig explains that they can't do "Cherokee", because it means Savoy would have to
pay composer royalties to an outside entity -- the publisher and composer of the song, which had been a big hit for Charlie Barnet's big band, once upon a time.
So "Cherokee" is done sans melody statement; after the horn-duet intro, you can hear Diz miraculously
ease into the piano accompaniment, and Parker just cuts straight to the sax-solo part, several choruses of
melodic invention at the same lightspeed tempo as the intro. To the uninitiated or the casual jazz listener,
with jazz history having been frozen by the war, the music must have been the equivalent of humanoid
beings landing at Area 51. Humanoid, but not quite human enough for comfort.
After a brief drum solo, Diz grabs his trumpet, and the duet intro is played again -- The End. The intro is
now a theme, the theme to a tune called "Ko-Ko", as it was originally spelled that day.
Hakim shows up, Miles returns to the trumpet chair, and the quintet finish three more tunes that day -- a
pair of blues numbers, "Billie's Bounce" and "Now's the Time", and "Thriving on a Riff", an impromptu,
themeless improvisation like "Koko" (IIRC, or was "Warming Up a Riff" the themeless one?). The rest is...
...a gas!!! You dig?