Showing posts with label Charlie Parker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charlie Parker. Show all posts

Monday, July 3, 2017


Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker was one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Known also as Yardbird, or simply Bird, Charlie was an early bebop pioneer; many of his songs remain standards to this day.

It might surprise you, but Charlie Parker started playing the saxophone at age 11, but wasn't a child prodigy by any stretch of the imagination. He joined the school band at age 14, and by one account, was kicked out because of his bad playing as a result of his lack of formal training. Charlie didn't let setbacks bother him though, and an in interview once said that for three to four years he practiced 15 hours a day. Part of this practice regime included playing the blues songs he learned in all 12 keys. During this time, Parker's improvisational skill flourished, and he began to develop some of the musical ideas that would give birth to bebop.

Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Max Roach (Gottlieb 06941).jpg

In the late thirties, Charlie played with local jazz bands in the Kansas City area. Ensembles led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten were popular in the area around this time and influenced Charlie's playing. By 1938 Charlie Parker had joined pianist Jay McShann's band, Jay McShann's Territory Band. The band played all over the southwest and occasionally travelled to bigger markets such as Chicago and New York.

It was with Jay McShann that Parker would play on his first professional recording. Bird moved to New York in 1939 and took a job as a dishwasher at Jimmy's Chicken Shack to supplement the income he made with Jay McShann's Territory Band. Pianist Art Tatum frequently played at the venue and his use of fast paced arpeggios would have an influence of Parker's playing.

In 1942 Charlie Parker left Jay's band to play with Earl Hines' band. A band that included Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet. A musician's strike from 1942-1943 has made it difficult to document much of what happened during that period. We do know, however, that in that year Paker played with a group of young musicians who embraced the new bebop form of jazz. This group of musicians included not only Parker and Gillespie but other soon to be legends, such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian and Kenny Clarke.

During these formative years of the genre, most of the older, established jazz musicians did not embrace it. Some, however, such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman, appreciated the new art form, playing and recording with bebop stylists. The genre which Charlie Parker all but invented, had arrived.

Charlie was famous for showing up to gigs without an instrument and borrowing one from somebody else at the last minute. For this reason, he could be seen playing many different makes and models of sax. These include Conn 6Ms, Selmer model 22s, and 26s, and even a Grafton plastic saxophone. In 1947 he had a King Super 20 made exclusively for him. He seemed to prefer Brilhart mouthpieces, having used both Ebolin and Tonalin Streamlines. According to rumor he used hard Rico reeds early in his career but later switched to a 2 ½ in the fifties.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Portrait of Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Mile...
Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, and Max Roach,
(Photo credit: 
Going To Kansas City
Charlie Parker was arguably the most influential saxophone player in jazz history. He was born on August 29, 1920 and was fortunate enough to be raised in Kansas City at a time when the music scene was in full stride. He took up alto saxophone at age 11 and was soon sneaking out of his house at night and into the nightclubs and theaters to watch and learn from the jazz greats of the time. Parker claimed to have learn a lot about playing saxophone by watching the fingers of the great Lester Young move up and down on his saxophone keys.

The older jazz musicians would hang out in the alleys during breaks and soon took a liking to this young kid. They helped sneak him into the clubs. Because of his fondness for eating chicken they gave him the nickname Yardbird. This was later shortened to the name he was known the world over for, Bird. As a teenager Parker became a serious musician who practiced 12 to 15 hours per day. He was soon playing in local bands and joined Jay McShann's territory band 1938. This band embodied the Kansas City jump blues style and toured the southwest as well as Chicago and New York.

52 nd Street
Bird moved to New York City in 1939 to further pursue his music career. He soon joined the big band of Earl 'Fatha" Hines and met Dizzy Gillespie. Bird, Gillespie, and other musicians such as Theolonius Monk, Kenny Clarke, Bud Powell and Charlie Christian were bored and fed up with the big bands who employed them and began hanging out at after hours jam sessions on 52nd Street in Harlem. These musicians soon developed a new style of jazz called Bebop. This new music was marked by fast tempos, sometimes intricate harmonic structure and the instrumental virtuosity of its players.

Now's The Time
By the mid 1940's Bird was leading his own groups and headlining recording sessions. During this period he recorded such Now's The Time, Yardbird Suite, Anthropology and Confirmation. Parker continued to record and perform through the early 50's even pursuing his interest in combining jazz and classical music by recording an album with strings, Bird With Strings, in 1949.

The Baroness
Haunted by a lifelong addiction to heroin and alcohol Charlie Parker died at The Stanhope Hotel in New York City on March 12, 1955. At the time he was staying in the suite of his friend and patron Nica de Koenigswarter who was known as the 'Baroness of Bebop" for hosting jazz jam sessions in her hotel suite.

Bird Lives
Charlie Parkers impact on modern jazz cannot be overestimated. Countless prominent jazz musicians followed in his footsteps and pointed to bird as one of their main influences. In jazz studies programs at colleges and universities across the globe his music is the standard to which all else is measured.
Bird Lives!

    By Joel Krett
    Joel Krett is currently playing tenor saxophone and harmonica with The Subway Show Band out of Morgantown, WV. and is an avid jazz fan.
    Article Source: EzineArticles