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“Donna Lee” was first recorded by the Charlie Parker All-Stars on May 8, 1947, with Charlie Parker on alto sax, Miles Davis on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Tommy Potter on bass and Max Roach on drums. While Charlie Parker was originally credited as the composer, his contracts usually called “for the record company to purchase rights to all the original compositions he recorded. Thus, if one happened to be written by a sideman, it was still likely to be credited to the bandleader.” In 1947 Gil Evans called Charlie Parker for permission to arrange the song for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and was referred to Davis, who gave permission. This is, therefore, Davis’ first recorded composition. Based on chord changes to the song “Indiana” by James Hanley, this A-flat major composition features extremely rapid successions of four-note groups over each change with rising and falling arpeggios.
Charlie Parker (1920-1955), noted for his technical facility and brilliant improvisation, became one of the founders of the bebop style of jazz which focused on fast tempo, complex chord progressions, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation - a listener-focused jazz, undanceable and embracing dissonance.
Miles Davis (1926-1991) joined the Charlie Parker All-Stars in 1947 and formed a nine-piece band the following year that shifted from bebop to cool. In the mid-1950s his work with Bill Evans centered attention on modal concepts of jazz, leading to the 1959 album “Kind of Blue”, which the Recording Industry of America certified as a quadruple platinum record, with over four million copies sold. From the mid-1940s until his death in 1991 Davis was involved with most jazz developments, usually in the lead.