Music: Strings Attached

A not-so-beloved tradition makes a comeback

Strings occupy a special, not particularly exalted place in jazz, their use generally signifying either a descent into pop schlock or an ill-advised stab at European art-music "legitimacy." Or, in the worst cases, a truly appalling amalgamation of the two. Charlie Parker's recordings with strings are probably the genre's acme. With their mostly undistinguished arrangements backing the saxophonist as if he were a B-list crooner, the sessions have long been dismissed by jazzbos as being beneath his talents. But he himself was proud of them, and listeners today, accustomed to the burr-in-your-ear juxtapositions of hip-hop and electronica, may find something bracing...

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