Charlie Parker

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Charlie Parker

Background information Birth name Charles Parker, Jr. Bird, Yardbird, Zoizeau (in France)[1] August 29, 1920
Kansas City, Kansas, USA

Also known as



Kansas City, Missouri, USA March 12, 1955 (aged 34)
New York City, New York, USA


Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career. rapidly implied passing chords. 1920 – March 12." Parker played a leading role in the development of bebop. He introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including a tonal vocabulary employing 9ths. At various times. and "Leap Frog" – he was also one of the great blues players. is widely considered one of the most influential of jazz musicians. Charles Parker. "Anthropology". tenor saxophone 1937–1955 Savoy. Dial. but sweet and plaintive on ballads. (August 29. from classical to Latin music. Although many Parker recordings demonstrate dazzling virtuosic technique and complex melodic lines – such as "Ko-Ko". or Yardbird[2] was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions.[3] and the shortened form "Bird" remained Parker's sobriquet for the rest of his life. and improvisation based on harmonic structure.Genres Occupations Instruments Years active Labels Website Jazz. rather than just a . "Kim". King and Grafton alto saxophones. 1955). and "Confirmation". with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Conn. Parker fused jazz with other musical styles. 11ths and 13ths of chords. personifying the conception of the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual. and harmony exercised enormous influence on his contemporaries. a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos. Verve Official Site Notable instruments Buescher. Several of Parker's songs have become standards. Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat generation. virtuoso technique. "Ornithology" and "Bird of Paradise. Jr. bebop Saxophonist. His themeless blues improvisation "Parker's Mood" represents one of the most deeply affecting recordings in jazz. rhythm. such as "Yardbird Suite". composer Alto saxophone. Parker. Parker's innovative approaches to melody. His tone was clean and penetrating. including "Billie's Bounce". and new variants of altered chords and chord substitutions. blazing paths followed later by others. famously called Bird. "Ornithology".

at this time Parker improved the quality of practicing. His mother worked nights at the local Western Union. "Cherokee" and "rhythm changes" in all twelve keys. circuit. Contents [show] [edit] Biography [edit] Childhood Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City. Missouri. in any case.[6] Rumor has it that he used to play many other tunes in all twelve keys. would help to explain the fact that he often played in unconventional concert pitch key signatures. learning the blues. and thrown out of the band.[citation needed] Experiencing periodic setbacks of this sort. and undoubtedly influenced Parker. In this wood-shedding period. an alcoholic. . One story holds that. harmonic and soloing perspective – influenced countless peers on every instrument. the only child of Charles and Addie Parker. Kansas and raised in Kansas City. Parker mastered improvisation and developed some of the ideas of be-bop. Parker displayed no sign of musical talent as a child. Jones made no mention of this incident. in the numerous interviews throughout his life. Missouri. who tossed a cymbal at Parker's feet in impatience with his playing.[4] He enrolled in September 1934 and withdrew in December 1935 about the time he joined the local Musicians Union. where he perfected his technique with the assistance of Buster Smith. His father presumably provided some musical influence. although he later became a Pullman waiter or chef on the railways. His biggest influence however was a young trombone player who taught him the basics of improvisation. whose dynamic transitions to double and triple time certainly influenced Parker's developing style. without formal training.B. he was a pianist. in early 1936. he said he spent 3–4 years practicing up to 15 hours a day. like E (which transposes to C# for the alto sax). Charles. He continued to play with local bands in jazz clubs around Kansas City. dancer and singer on the T. Exasperated and determined. Parker participated in a 'cutting contest' that included Jo Jones on drums.O. though undocumented. The story. In an interview with Paul Desmond.A. [edit] Early career It has been said that.[5] However. His style – from a rhythmic. at one point he broke off from his constant practicing. was often absent. he was terrible.popular entertainer. Parker attended Lincoln High School. Parker began playing the saxophone at age 11 and at age 14 joined his school's band using a rented school instrument. Groups led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten were the leading Kansas City ensembles.

and drummer Kenny Clarke. Parker left McShann's band and played with Earl Hines for one year. Parker also learned much from notable music teacher Maury Deutsch. [edit] New York City In 1939. this period is virtually undocumented because of the strike of 1942–1943 by the American Federation of Musicians. In his time in New York City. The group played in venues on 52nd Street including the Three Deuces and The Onyx. we know that Parker joined a group of young musicians in after-hours clubs in Harlem such as Clark Monroe's Uptown House and (to a much lesser extent) Minton's Playhouse. Nevertheless. These young iconoclasts included Gillespie. In 1942. Parker's later style in some ways recalled Tatum's. Parker developed a morphine addiction while in hospital after an automobile accident. Parker moved to New York City. Parker joined pianist Jay McShann's territory band.[7] The band toured nightclubs and other venues of the southwest.In 1938. during which no official recordings were made. high-speed arpeggios and sophisticated use of harmony. . but held several other jobs as well. pianist Thelonious Monk. Heroin would haunt him throughout his life and ultimately contribute to his death. Also in the band was trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. There he pursued a career in music. The beboppers' attitude was summed up in a famous quotation attributed to Monk by Mary Lou Williams: "We wanted a music that they couldn't play"[citation needed] – "they" being the (white) bandleaders who had taken over and profited from swing music. as well as Chicago and New York City. guitarist Charlie Christian. with dazzling. owing to his highly virtuosic yet nonetheless musical playing. Unfortunately. and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He worked for $9 a week as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack where pianist Art Tatum performed. [citation needed] As a teenager. It was said at one point in McShann's band that he "sounded like a machine".[8][9] Parker made his professional recording debut with McShann's band. which is where the soon to be famous duo met for the first time.

One of their first (and greatest) small-group performances together was rediscovered and issued in 2005: a concert in New York's Town Hall on June 22. As a result. caused him to miss gigs and to be fired for being high. one night in 1939." The tracks recorded during this session include "Ko-Ko" (based on the chords of "Cherokee"). Miles Davis. when the recording ban was lifted. However. On November 26. 1945. It was not until 1945. by building on the chords' extended intervals. Because of the 2-year Musicians' Union recording ban on all commercial recordings from 1942 to 1944 (part of a struggle to get royalties from record sales for a union fund for out-of-work musicians). Bud Powell and others had a substantial effect on the jazz world. Photography by William P. but Parker remained in California. "Now's the Time" (a twelve bar blues incorporating a riff later used in the late 1949 R&B dance hit "The Hucklebuck"). marketed as the "greatest Jazz session ever. Parker at this time realized that the twelve tones of the chromatic scale can lead melodically to any key. Early in its development. eventually being committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a six month period. some musicians. 1945. and participated in jam sessions and recording dates in the new approach with its adherents. the Parker/Gillespie band traveled to an unsuccessful engagement at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles.Portrait of Charlie Parker. which began in his late teens. and thirteenths. Parker led a record date for the Savoy label. cashing in his return ticket to buy heroin. Gottlieb. called these traditionalists "moldy figs". Three Deuces. were more positive about its development. breaking some of the confines of simpler jazz soloing. To satisfy his habit. and Max Roach. [citation needed] Still with McShann's orchestra. Shortly afterwards. NY. Tommy Potter. he frequently resorted to busking on the streets for drug . that Parker's collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie. we drink ours. much of bebop's early development was not captured for posterity. Most of the group returned to New York. [edit] Bebop According to an interview Parker gave in the 1950s. elevenths. such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman."[10] The beboppers. Bebop musicians had a difficult time gaining widespread recognition. "Billie's Bounce". such as ninths. this new type of jazz was rejected by many of the established. in response. [edit] Addiction Parker's addiction to heroin. and "Thriving on a Riff". New York. the new musical concepts only gained limited radio exposure. Max Roach. traditional jazz musicians who disdained their younger counterparts with comments like Eddie Condon's putdown: "They flat their fifths. Bebop began to grab hold and gain wider appeal among musicians and fans alike. he was playing "Cherokee" in a jam session with guitarist William 'Biddy' Fleet when he hit upon a method for developing his solos that enabled him to play what he had been hearing in his head for some time. He experienced great hardship in California.

On the next tune. McGhee's bellow is audible on the recording. provides evidence of his condition. and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky. and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as 'Third Stream Music'. According to the liner notes of Charlie Parker on Dial Volume 1. but was refused on each attempt. Parker was initially clean and healthy. Parker's situation was typical of the strong connection between drug abuse and jazz at the time." When he finally did come in. and Parker began to drink heavily to compensate for this. The hotel manager eventually locked him in his room. in reference to his hospital stay. Parker's behavior became increasingly erratic due to his habit. receiving loans from fellow musicians/admirers. Parker missed most of the first two bars of his first chorus on the track. a new kind of music. The highlights of these sessions include a series of slower-tempo performances of American popular songs including "Embraceable You" and "Bird of Paradise" (based on "All the Things You Are"). where he remained for six "Max Making Wax. Before leaving California. producer Ross Russell physically supported Parker in front of the microphone. he swayed wildly and once spun all the way around. Coming out of the hospital. however. [edit] Charlie Parker with strings A longstanding desire of Parker's was to perform with a string section. Many of these were with his so-called "classic quintet" including trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Max Roach. Parker was drinking in his hotel room. then ran through the hotel lobby wearing only his socks. "Blow!" at Parker. During the night following the "Lover Man" session. he set fire to his mattress with a cigarette. he recorded "Relaxin' at Camarillo". Although he produced many brilliant recordings during this period. Prior to this session. the trumpeter on this session. and proceeded to do some of the best playing and recording of his career. 1946. He returned to New York – and his addiction – and recorded dozens of sides for the Savoy and Dial labels that remain some of the high points of his recorded output. He entered the hotel lobby stark naked on several occasions and asked to use the phone. and a desperate Howard McGhee. At some point during the night. going badly off mic. "Lover Man". this time in stellar form. On November 30. Parker hated the recording and never forgave Ross Russell for releasing the sub-par performance (and re-recorded the tune in 1951 for Verve. pawning his own horn and borrowing other sax players' instruments as a result. problematic attempt). Charles Mingus considered this version of "Lover Man" to be among Parker's greatest recordings despite its flaws.[12] Six master takes from this session . 1949. On his second eight bars. He was a keen student of classical music. Parker drank about a quart of whiskey. Heroin was difficult to obtain after he moved to California for a short time where the drug was less abundant. shouts. incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards. On "Bebop" (the final track Parker recorded that evening) he begins a solo with a solid first eight bars. Norman Granz arranged for Parker to record an album of ballads with a mixed group of jazz and chamber orchestra musicians. but perhaps lacking some of the passionate emotion in the earlier. A recording for the Dial label from July 29. Parker begins to struggle. He was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital.[11] Nevertheless.

Legions of saxophonists imitated his playing note-for-note. His tone is darker and softer than on his small-group recordings. there would be a whole lot of dead copycats") featured on the album Mingus Dynasty. the bass player Charles Mingus. relative to his usual work. Bird With Strings was his favorite. In an interview. The sound of these recordings is rare in Parker's catalog. In response to these pretenders. Many musicians transcribed and copied his solos. In this regard. and "If I Should Lose You". Although using classical music instrumentation with jazz musicians was not entirely original. more distilled and economical. These are among the few recordings Parker made during a brief period when he was able to control his heroin habit. and the majority of his lines are beautiful embellishments on the original melodies rather than harmonically based improvisations. he considered it to be his best recording to that date.[4] [5] [6] By 1950. Parker's improvisations are. Time demonstrated Parker's move a wise one: Charlie Parker with Strings sold better than his other releases. .[citation needed] [edit] Prominence Right side view of a Conn 6M "Lady Face" alto sax with highly distinctive underslung octave key. and his sobriety and clarity of mind are evident in his playing. of his own records. and few escaped their influence. "Summertime". much of the jazz world had fallen under Parker's spell. Some fans thought it was a "sell out" and a pandering to popular tastes. he is perhaps only comparable to Louis Armstrong: both men set the standard for their instruments for decades. Parker's admirer. titled a tune "Gunslinging Bird" (meaning "If Charlie Parker were a gunslinger. "I Didn't Know What Time It Was".comprised the album Bird With Strings: "Just Friends". "Everything Happens to Me". "April in Paris". Parker stated that. this was the first major work where a composer of bebop was matched with a string orchestra. a model that Parker is known to have used. and his version of "Just Friends" is seen[by whom?] as one of his best performances.

[24] The coroner who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker's 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age. and at the last minute.e. he. Unfortunately. which Parker proceeded to use at the concert that night. they were only able to find a Grafton. the Martin Handicraft[22][unreliable source?] and Selmer Model 22[23] [unreliable source?] saxophones. the concert clashed with a televised heavyweight boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott and as a result was poorly attended.[13][unreliable source?] later. After scouring all the downtown pawnshops open at the time. [18] [19][unreliable source?] [20][unreliable source?] because Parker can be seen wearing different clothing and there are different backgrounds. Parker's King Super 20 saxophone was made specially for him in 1947. with a semi-underslung octave key that bears some resemblance to those fitted on modern Yanagisawa instruments. mounted above the crook of the saxophone [21][unreliable source?] e. Dizzy Gillespie and other members of Charlie's entourage went running around Toronto trying to find Parker a saxophone. necessitating a loan at the last moment. At this concert. There are various photos that show him playing a Conn 6M saxophone. joined by Gillespie.g. Mingus recorded the concert. Parker is also known to have performed with a King 'Super 20' saxophone. [edit] Death Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery. Parker had sold his alto saxophone to buy drugs. However. saxophonist Ornette Coleman used this brand of plastic sax in his early career. The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis of the liver and had had a heart attack.[25] .In 1953. Bud Powell and Max Roach. Parker died in the suite of his friend and patron Nica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City while watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television. and the album Jazz at Massey Hall is often cited[by whom?] as one of the finest recordings of a live jazz performance.[15][16][17][unreliable source?] Some of the photographs showing Parker with a Conn 6M were taken on separate occasions. Thankfully. Parker was known for often showing up to performances without an instrument. with the saxophonist credited as "Charlie Chan" for contractual reasons. i. Mingus. Canada. he played a plastic Grafton saxophone (serial number 10265). Parker performed at Massey Hall in Toronto. among others. other photos exist that show Parker holding alto saxophones with a more conventional octave key arrangement. a high quality instrument that was noted for having a very fast action[14][unreliable source?]and a unique "underslung" octave key. Any one of the four ailments could have killed him.

Kansas City. Kim Parker. and "Cool Blues" were based on conventional 12-bar blues changes. a practice still common in jazz today. While tunes such as "Now's The Time". their later lives are chronicled in Chan Parker's autobiography. "Billie's Bounce". Truman Road. he hadn’t divorced his previous wife Doris. nor had he officially married Chan. Examples include "Ornithology" ("How High The Moon") and "Yardbird Suite" ("What Price Love"). Today his concepts and ideas are transcribed. Chan. complex melodic lines and a minimum of repetition although he did employ the use of repetitive (yet relatively rhythmically complex) motifs in many other tunes as well. some of his compositions are characterized by long. it became a signature of the movement as artists began to move away from arranging popular standards and began to compose their own material.[citation needed] Parker had told his common-law wife. and a son. Parker was admired for his unique style of phrasing and innovative use of rhythm. 1922 – January 17. studied. a stepdaughter. that he didn’t want to be buried in the city of his birth. 2000). and a memorial concert before flying Parker's body back to Missouri to be buried there per his mother's wishes.It was well known that Parker never wanted to return to Kansas City. .[citation needed] Like his solos. Parker also contributed a vast rhythmic vocabulary to the modern jazz solo. These unique chords are known popularly as "Bird Changes". Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery. a scenario that muddied the issue of next of kin and would ultimately serve to frustrate his wish to be quietly interred in his adopted hometown. most notably "Now's The Time". Charlie Parker was survived by both his legal wife. that New York was his home and he didn’t want any fuss or memorials when he died. The practice was not uncommon prior to bebop.[27] [edit] Musical approach Parker's style of composition involved interpolation of original melodies over pre-existing jazz forms and standards. one in which triplets and pick-up notes were used in (then) unorthodox ways to lead into chord tones. 8604 E. even in death. Missouri. affording the soloist with more freedom to use passing tones. Parker's uniquely identifiable vocabulary of "licks" and "riffs" dominated jazz for many years to come. Parker also created a unique version of the 12-bar blues for his tune "Blues for Alice". Chan. Within this context. a Harlem procession officiated by Adam Clayton Powell. and his partner. who is also a musician. At the time of his death. Baird Parker. and analyzed by a great deal of jazz students and are part of any player's basic jazz vocabulary. Via his recordings and the popularity of the posthumously published Charlie Parker Omnibook. which soloists would have previously avoided. My Life in E Flat.. however. August 16. Jr. Doris Parker (née Doris June Snyder. though. Dizzy Gillespie was able to co-opt the funeral arrangements[26] that Chan had been putting together and coordinated a ‘lying-in-state’. which left Parker in the rather awkward post-mortem situation of having two widows.

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