42. Charlie Parker

Charles Parker, Jr. was a jazz saxophonist from Kansas City, Missouri. He was leading figure in the development of bebop jazz, a mathematical form of jazz featuring rapid tempos and complex chord substitutions. He first achieved notoriety as a conventional soloist with Jay McShann’s orchestra. After moving to New York City in 1939, Parker participated in after hours jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse, where he helped to pioneer the new style of jazz improvisation.

Although he only achieved modest commercial success in the 1940s and early 1950s. Parker is considered one of the greatest and most inventive musicians in jazz history.


Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (1920-1955), alto saxophone

Official Website for Charlie “Yardbird” Parker
Wikipedia Discussion of Bebop Music
Amazon.com Link to “Celebrating Bird”, by Gary Giddins

Related Musicians:

Jay McShann (1916-2006), piano, bandleader
John “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993), trumpet, bandleader, composer
Miles Davis (1926-1991), trumpet, bandleader, composer
Kenny Clarke (1914-1985), drums
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), piano
Red Rodney (1927-1994), trumpet

Charlie Parker Quotes:

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”

“I remember one night before Monroe’s I was jamming in a chili house on Seventh Avenue between 139th and 140th. It was December 1939. Now I had been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used at the time, and I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else. I could hear it sometimes but I couldn’t play it. Well, that night I was working over “Cherokee,” and as I did I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I’d been hearing. I came alive.”

“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.”

— Charlie “Yardbird” Parker

Brief Observations

Neither my father nor my mother had interest in bop jazz. Even in college, none of my close friends had an interest; the timing was wrong. I added Charlie Parker to my collection because I was supposed to. He is regarded as a genius, and should be represented. As the years have progressed, my appreciation for this more complex form of jazz has grown.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Bird”, the Charlie Parker biopic starring Forrest Whitaker and directed by Clint Eastwood. In particular, the unusual relationship between Parker and his common law wife Chan, played by Diana Venora, is striking. I once read a harsh criticism of the movie by a Parker devotee, for depicting Parker as overly timid. I tried to find the review, but couldn’t. I highly recommend this movie.

I tend to like shorter songs, because they compel the artist to make a concise statement. Parker recorded in an era when song length was limited by technology, and I believe this improved his legacy.

I spent hours listening to his music while compiling the review. I never tired of listening to him. It sounded better as I progressed.

3. Parker should be recognized as a mathematical genius, a savant and intellectual with great insight.

Here is a list of albums available on iTunes, which can be used to collect these fine pieces of music:

Best of the Complete Savoy & Dial Takes
Charlie Parker with Strings
South of the Border – The Latin Jazz Sides
Ken Burns’s Jazz: Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker Songs

Out Of Nowhere, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭✭
Parker’s Mood, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭✭
Bloomdido, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭✭

Scrapple From The Apple, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Chasing The Bird, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Now’s The Time, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Ko-Ko, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Just Friends, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Tico Tico, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
Milestones, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
A Night In Tunisia, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭

Embraceable You, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Billie’s Bounce, Charlie Parker ✭✭
What Is This Thing Called Love (Live), Charlie Parker ✭✭
Donna Lee, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Fiesta, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Don’t Blame Me, Charlie Parker ✭✭
La Cucaracha, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Moose The Mooche, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Yardbird Suite, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Ornithology, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Bird Of Paradise, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Cool Blues, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Relaxin’ At Camarillo, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Klacktoveedsedstene, Charlie Parker ✭✭
My Little Suede Shoes, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Confirmation, Charlie Parker ✭✭
April In Paris, Charlie Parker ✭✭
Sepian Bounce, Jay McShann Orchestra ✭✭
All The Things You Are, Dizzy Gillespie ✭✭
Groovin’ High, Dizzy Gillespie ✭✭
Hot Hours, Dizzy Gillespie ✭✭
Salt Peanuts, Dizzy Gillespie ✭✭
No Noise (Parts 1 & 2), Machito & His Orchestra ✭✭

The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, Machito & His Orchestra

Related Songs:

Salt Peanuts (Live), The Quintet ✭✭

Out Of Nowhere, Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns ✭✭✭
Out Of Nowhere, Coleman Hawkins & Django Reinhardt

April In Paris, Thelonius Monk ✭✭
April In Paris, Count Basie & His Orchestra

Milestones, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Milestones, Miles Davis ✭✭✭

A Night In Tunisia, Dexter Gordon ✭✭
A Night In Tunisia, Dizzy Gillespie & His Orchestra ✭✭✭

What Is This Thing Called Love?, Artie Shaw
What Is This Thing Called Love?, Frank Sinatra

Don’t Blame Me, Nat King Cole Trio

Moose The Mooche, Richard Groove Holmes

All The Things You Are, Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan ✭✭
All The Things You Are, Art Tatum

One thought on “42. Charlie Parker

  1. theperfectipodcollection January 8, 2011 / 4:34 PM

    The “Lover Man” session by Charlie Parker is famous because of Parker’s poor physical health at the time. I believe he was trying to kick heroin at the time, using heavy alcohol consumption to dull the pain.

    From Wikipedia:

    Although he produced many brilliant recordings during this period, Parker’s behavior became increasingly erratic due to his habit. Heroin was difficult to obtain after he moved to California for a short time where the drug was less abundant, and Parker began to drink heavily to compensate for this. A recording for the Dial label from July 29, 1946, provides evidence of his condition. Prior to this session, Parker drank about a quart of whiskey. According to the liner notes of Charlie Parker on Dial Volume 1, Parker missed most of the first two bars of his first chorus on the track, “Max Making Wax.” When he finally did come in, he swayed wildly and once spun all the way around, going badly off mic. On the next tune, “Lover Man”, producer Ross Russell physically supported Parker in front of the microphone. On “Bebop” (the final track Parker recorded that evening) he begins a solo with a solid first eight bars. On his second eight bars, however, Parker begins to struggle, and a desperate Howard McGhee, the trumpeter on this session, shouts, “Blow!” at Parker. McGhee’s bellow is audible on the recording. Charles Mingus considered this version of “Lover Man” to be among Parker’s greatest recordings despite its flaws.[12] Nevertheless, Parker hated the recording and never forgave Ross Russell for releasing the sub-par performance (and re-recorded the tune in 1951 for Verve, this time in stellar form, but perhaps lacking some of the passionate emotion in the earlier, problematic attempt).

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