Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

This is the biography Charlie Parker was born on (Kansas City, 29 August 1920 – New York, 12 March 1955), in Kansas City, in the US state of Kansas. In all probability he can be considered the greatest saxophonist in the history of Jazz, ever, among the first three great musicians of this genre never lived. WithDizzy Gillespie and other jazz musicians of the time gave birth, bringing it to the extreme artistic levels, the jazz current of the so-called be-bop, a trend that from there toa few years it would also be boundless outside the States, becoming the style jazz most played and coveted by all jazzmen of the twentieth century.

To convey the idea of ​​the contribution given to the genre by the black saxophonist, following the thought of the most important scholars, critics and historians of music, the ItalianArrigo Polillo, an expert in the sector, defined Charlie Parker in the following terms in his famous jazz anthology: ” He was the Picasso of art afro American, the man who reinvented the syntax and morphology of jazz music and diverted its course “.Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, a suburb of the homonymous state and, ironically, she moved almost immediately to Kansas City, the big city of the state of Missouri instead.

It happens that when the future “Bird” is still a child, his father abandons her family, remaining de facto in early Kansas and forever estranged from his wife and his son. Parker Senior is an ill-mannered and little-known hiker, hired by some vaudeville companies in the area.

Charlie himself will only see him again since died several years later at his funeral, and from a stab wound received from a prostitute. The mother is a cleaning woman and after the abandonment suffered by her husband, she moves with her son in Missouri, finding a job that keeps her busy at night. EnrollCharlie at Lincoln High School, which he attended for a few years, with little profit.

The future jazz musician spends his days sneaking into what will be his world, listening to and learning from some great masters, such as Lester Young and Buster Smith, called “The Professor”, both active in Kansas City cabarets. In 1935, at the age of just fifteen, Charlie Parker married a girl from nineteen years old, named Rebecca Ruffin. In the meantime, it can already be considered a professional musician, although still of a mediocre level.

He has already met the drugs and makes extensive use of them. The period, musically speaking, is brilliant in the city. And there is a place also for him, who since 1934 has played for some orchestras, such as the following one by pianist Lawrence Keyes. It takes a couple of years to mature and immediately, the best in the area, like Buster Smith andJay McShann, they want him to play in their orchestras.

In those days you already hear the number one and, leaving his wife and child at stake, decides to leave the city of Kansas, to go to Chicago, travelling hidden in a freight car. The passage is short and Parker immediately senses that New York is the right destination. He goes there and lets himself be hosted by his former orchestra leader, Buster Smith, almost secretly from his wife.

The young man jazz man lives at night: he works in clubs and, when allowed, plays during the jam session. He works as a kitchen boy at both Clarke Monroe’s and Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, an elegant place where Art Tatum performs almost every night, and which Charlie attends alone to listen to the great pianist.

Spend some time and start earning from life with music. He is hired in the orchestra of the Parisian Ballroom, a hall from dance around Times Square. His father dies these days, and Parker makes a short return to his native Kansas. There is little left, however, the call of New York is strong and there returns, without thinking twice, determined to fine-tune what he already calls his style.

Between 1940 and 1941 Parker made his first records. He is barely twenty, but he has achieved its own sound, mature and recognizable, according to some already “superb”, as his colleagues define him at the end of his famous concert at the Savoy, in Harlem neighbourhood. In 1942 Bird avoids the army by declaring himself a drug addict.

Thanks to some of his admirers manage to get in touch with Dizzy Gillespie, and then with Earl Hines, which takes him into his orchestra. Parker works there for ten months, missing the rehearsals, sometimes falling asleep on stage, often disappearing for days and receiving always, punctual, the fines of the orchestra leader.

Unruly to the core then, he leaves for good, taking a wander for some cities, such as Washington and Chicago, before receiving a new call from New York, this time in the orchestra of another great of the time, Billy Eckstine, exactly in the spring of 1944.

But the attitude of “Bird” does not change and soon the saxophonist realizes that if he wants to survive, it is only through small formations led by him, nothing but this way. It “sells” then at Fifty-second Street and at the “Three Deuces” located his sound, in a small venue which, thanks to him, becomes the cradle of the new boppers.

Between 1944 and 1945 the recordings with occasional musicians multiply: for the label savvy, Parker recorded many new songs during this period, such as the famous “Red Cross. “Soon he finds himself with Dizzy Gillespie to record a series of songs that mark the beginning of a new way of doing jazz, like “Groovin ‘high”, “DizzyAtmosphere “and” All the things you are “, followed a few months later by” Salt peanuts “, “Lover Man” and “Hothouse”.

In the autumn of 1945, again for Savoy, he recorded another series of songs, among which there is also “Ko ko”, according to some his masterpiece. Most of the public and the critical though, apart from a few exceptions, still fails to penetrate in all respects the new way of playing Dizzy and Bird and the latter consoles himself with drugs, with alcohol and, also and above all, with women.

He marries Geraldine Scott from whom he divorces almost immediately, to love and marry, in Mexico, later (forgetting, however, that he was not officially divorced from Geraldine), the meteor Doris Snyder. In this same period, he also knows and loves can Richardson, the white woman who is a bit of a patron with the black artists of the area and with whom he will remain in contact until his death.

During these years, Bird eats and drinks like no one, to excess, and does the same with drugs and, despite playing practically every day, is always looking for money, which he sometimes borrows without ever repaying. Also in 1945, Charlie and Dizzy went to the conquest of Hollywood, to bring the new New York sound over there, at Billy Berg’s.

However colleagues Californians only show up infrequently and often when they go specifically for hearing Bird, they end up not even finding him, due to his wandering around aimless, prey to drugs and alcohol. Gillespie himself has to hire a backup sax player on that tour.

When it comes time to go back to New York, after writing at Billy Berg’s, Parker is missing; these in the meantime knew the right type able to get him heroin, nicknamed “Moose the Mooche”, to which he even dedicates apiece, plus 50% of its royalties. After a few months, it is revealed that Bird has found a new job and plays practically every night at the “Finale”, a place located in the Little Tokyo district, in Los Angeles.

In 1946, the place became the new nerve centre of American jazz, thanks to Parker and associates. Ross Russell, a producer, gives life to the new Dial label, which he welcomes in that period all Bird’s inventions, in a state of grace. The period doesn’t last forever and with the closing of the Finale, due to the sale of drugs, the period also disappearsCalifornian gold for Parker.

The bird is having a hard time then, having no more heroin available; starts drinking immoderate way. Not even Norman Granz, with his Jazz at the Philarmonic, so he plays on occasion, manages to get him out of trouble. In July 1946, Russell gives in to Bird’s insistence, and gives life to a session engraving, although Parker is in terrible shape. In fact, for the occasion, he is present even a psychiatrist, called on purpose to prevent Bird from escalating as it happens to him in that period.

The recording, however, contains a legendary version of “Lover man”, according to many the best player in the history of jazz, for pathos and emotional intensity, which has inspired several famous tales and novel writers, such as “Il persecutor” by Julio Cortazar, included in his work entitled”Bestiary”.

Journalist Elliott Grennard also attended the famous session, who a few months later publishes a short story called “Sparrow’s Last Jump”, which appeared in Harper’s magazine in May 1947 and focused on the legendary experience lived at Parker’s side.

During the session only two other songs are recorded, “The Gypsy” and”Bebop”, before taking an exhausted Bird back to the hotel. A few hours pass and the saxophonist goes crazy, swoops naked and screaming into the hall and sets fire to the bed in his room before being taken away by the police. He is interned in the psychiatric ward of the “Camarillo State Mental Hospital”, at aa hundred kilometres from Los Angeles, where he remains hospitalized for six months,
composing the well-known song “Relaxin ‘at Camarillo”.

He spent a few months sober but, on his definitive return to New York, from 1947 onwards, starts taking drugs again. He spends a few years in highs and lows, physical and musical, however always recording for the Savoy and Dial record labels, often in the company of so-called “classic quintet”, with Miles Davis on flugelhorn and Max Roach on drums. He also resumes playing at Three Deuces and The Onyx, with Gillespie, who in vain every time he tries to clean it up, without ever succeeding.

He plays with the best of all time, like Miles Davis, Howard McGhee, Red Rodney, FatsNavarro, Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon, vibraphonist Milt Jackson and Bud Powell, in addition to the various Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Charles Mingus. In 1949 the historic label “Metronome” brings together Parker with Lennie Tristano and Pete Rugolo, in addition to other greats of all time, giving life to historic engravings.

In 1950, Bird records in New York with a large string orchestra. It is a financial success, possibly the only one in his life, but longtime friends blame him, causing him a strong disappointment. In truth, Parker has always been a lover of cultured music European, from Schoenberg to Debussy Stravinsky. In the same year, he crossed the Atlantic, already crossed years ago for an unfortunate your Parisian, and goes to Sweden, where he holds some concerts.

He is again invited by Delaunay to play in Paris but, despite the announcements, he doesn’t show up. Meanwhile, in New York, in his honour, “Birdland” was born, a place where they play just his music. However, even here, Parker takes little time to get kicked out, because of his behaviours.

From 1950 to 1953 he made some good engravings, but very tarnished in comparison to the executions ranging between 1947 and 1948 with the Savoy and the Dial. He is more and more a slave of drugs and manages to keep himself alive, so to speak, only with the help of his true her only lifelong partner, patient Chan Richardson. At the beginning of 1954, Parker made a final episode in California, to replace the colleague Stan Getz, arrested for threatening a pharmacist with a gun because a running out of narcotics.

He performs good performances but literally goes crazy when the news of the death of his little daughter Pree, with Chan e, reaches him crushed by pneumonia. A few months pass in New York and he has hospitalized again in an asylum, all Bellevue Hospital. He is discharged, plays with the Philharmonic, with Sarah Vaughan, but the returns of his own free will to the hospital, only a few days later. He holds his last concerts on 4 and 5 March 1955, at the “Birdland”.

It should have an “all-star band”, along with Powell (also tried by drugs and madness), Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Kenny Dorham But it’s a total fiasco: Parker does the can take it anymore. A few days pass and Bird goes to a friend, another white patron, the BaronessNica Rothschild de Koenigswarter. A doctor is called, convinced by the bad one’s conditions of the musician, to visit him every day.

About three passes and March 12in 1955, Charlie Parker dies in front of the television, in the apartment of the baroness, officially from pneumonia. The coroner, called to perform the autopsy, not knowing how to immediately identify the cause, writes on the report that the body belongs to a man of about fifty-three years.

Wendy’s, however, Bird is only thirty-four years old. The tributes in music in his honour are innumerable; inspired by his life is the movie “Bird”1988, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Forest Whitaker as the musician. Considered one of the founding fathers of modern jazz, Charlie Parker was one of the most innovative and influential musicians in the entire history of jazz.

From the 1950s to the present day, the world of jazz music (and beyond) has had to come to terms with the influence of Parker’s work. Many musicians transcribed and copied his solos note by note. Dean Benedetti recorded many of Bird’s solos on acetate, mainly related to the concerts of the years 1947 and 1948, which are part of “The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker” (edited by Phil Schaap and Bob Porter), published by the US label Mosaic Records.

Legions of saxophonists imitated his style and his way of playing. As a matter of importance, the figure of Parker is perhaps only comparable to those of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis: all three established what the definitive canons of their instruments were for decades, made real leaps forward in understanding, conceiving and performing music, and very few let themselves be influenced by their styles. In particular, the charismatic figure of Charlie Parker contributed enormously to the fortune of the alto saxophone, pushing more and more enthusiasts towards this instrument.

Parker’s music, once considered only the artistic expression of a revolutionary minority within the African American community, continues to be studied and influenced by American music more than fifty years after its birth. In 1953, Parker performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada, together with a supergroup of Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Unfortunately, the concert coincided with the televised broadcast of a boxing match for the world heavyweight title between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, which resulted in a small audience.

The concert was recorded by Mingus, however, and released on albums with the title Jazz at Massey Hall, soon becoming a classic and one of the most famous jazz concerts thanks to the incredible cast of musicians employed. For contractual reasons, Parker could only participate in the project under a pseudonym, is credited as “Charlie Chan” in the notes of the record (Chan was the name of his last girlfriend).

The heroine and the many other excesses that had marked his whole life killed him while he was watching television as a guest of the noblewoman and patron of Pannonica de Koenigswarter jazz. The coroner (coroner) who examined the body, Dr Robert Freymann, was unable to establish the cause of death and estimated Charlie Parker’s age at fifty-three. He was only thirty-four. The official diagnosis, in the end, was pneumonia.


Young Bird Vol. 1-2 (1940-44) – Masters Of Jazz (Media 7)
Young Bird Vol. 3 (1945.1) – Masters Of Jazz (Media 7)
Young Bird Vol. 4 (1945.2) – Masters Of Jazz (Media 7)
Young Bird Vol. 5 (1945-46) – Masters Of Jazz (Media 7)
Young Bird Vol. 6 (1947) – Masters Of Jazz (Media 7)
The Complete Studio Recording on Savoy (1945-47) (4CD) – Savoy
The Complete Live Performances on Savoy (1948-50) (4CD) – Savoy
The Complete Dial Sessions (1946-47) (4CD) – Dial
Bird. The Complete Charlie Parker On Verve (1946-54) (10CD) – Verve
The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings Of Charlie Parker (1947-48) (7CD) – Mosaic Recs.
The Complete Recordings W Lennie Tristano (1947-51) – Definitive Records
Bird On 52Nd Street (1948) – Jazz Workshop
Bird at St. Nick’s (1950) – Jazz Workshop
The Bird You Never Heard (1950-54) – Stash
The Complete Legendary Rockland Palace Concert (1952) (2CD) – Jazz Classics
Complete Jazz At Massey Hall (1953) (The Quintet) – Jazz Factory
At Storyville (1953) – Blue Note
Bird In Boston. Live At The Hi-Hat (1953-54) (2CD) – Fresh Sound

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