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Charlie Parker, nicknamed  known from his youth as Yardbird, usually shortened to “Bird”, was an iconic jazz saxophonist and music composer. Bird was  one of the key figures of the big band era that ran fro the late thirties to the mid fifties.

 

 

Charlie Parker, nicknamed  known from his youth as Yardbird, usually shortened to “Bird”, was an iconic jazz saxophonist and music composer. Bird was  one of the key figures of the big band era that ran fro the late thirties to the mid fifties.

 

Parker, a rare talent and driving force in the jazz music scene, suffered  all through his life from the devastating effects of heroin addiction, eventually to succumb to its effects when he only thirty four years old. 

Born and raised in relative comfort despite the tough times in the twenties and thirties in Kansas City, Missouri, the young Parker showed an unusual talent for music from his early teens, causing him to quit high school and follow his dream to become a jazz saxophonist.

 

So determined was Parker to succeed that  he would often practice twelve to fifteen hours a day on a rented saxophone with much encouragement from his parents but probably considerably less from their neighbors.

By the time he had reached his early twenties, Charlie Parker had  polished  his saxophone skills to a very high level,  as well as developing a style of his own, that was to remain a trademark during his very short career.

 

As Parker began to appear with bands around Kansas City in the late thirties, eventually signing up to play with  a well known local band, Jay McShann's territory band., whose “red hot” jazz music style had even earned a reputation  as far afield as  New York City and Chicago, where they made regular appearance.

Bird was smitten by the big city jazz scene, and still an impressionable young man in his very early twenties,  decided that there was no time like the present to move to New York City. In his early days there,  the gigs didn’t exactly roll in, and Parker kept himself going by doing all kinds of casual work.

It was while working washing dishes at a popular New York jazz club that Charlie first met jazz piano legend Art Tatum, who was performing there. Tatum took a liking to Charlie and invited him to jam with his  band.

 

 These were exciting times in the jazz music scene in New York, where live performances were the norm and famous musicians would get together to jam in the famous clubs that were peppered throughout the city, from Manhattan to Harlem.

Parker featured in these jam sessions alongside such jazz greats as  Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Earl Hines among many others. Sadly, very few of these wonderful sessions were ever recorded for posterity due to a long running strike that plagued the music industry in the early forties.

What is for sure that  during this period Parker’s skill and talents as a saxophonist reached tremendous levels, where finally his many years of experimentation with tones and scales fell into place to create a unique sound.

 

In the early part of 1946, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie put together a travelling combo which culminated in a long running gig at the famous Billy Berg club in Los Angeles.  Parker fell in love with the LA scene and decides to put some roots down there  while Gillespie and the rest of the band set off home.  

Parker’s drug problems, which  had been floating below the surface for several years, eventually  began to  play a major effect on his life, leading him to  the depths of heroin use and alcoholism. Eventually the bird was locked up in cage of his own making, a   a  mental clinic where he was to remain for six months.

 

 

After his release, Charlie Parker announced that he was clean or all drug addiction and with a clearness of mind that many thought he had lost forever.  He returned to New York and began a new series of collaborations with an up and coming talent by the name of Miles Davis.

It was at that time that Parker was to resurrect his concepts of what he described as the Third Stream of music, taking in both jazz and classical elements. During this halcyon period in his life and musical career, Parker was to make his finest recordings, among them his own personal favorite, which he titled “ Bird With Strings”  .

 

A   particular milestone in Parker’s career was a concert  held in Toronto, Canada,  where he played alongside long term jazz legends and friends, Dizzy Gillespie,  Charlie Mingus, pianist  Bud Powell and drummer  Max Roach.

This was the first  concert where  Parker appeared playing a  saxophone made entirely of plastic,  the first step in a series of experiments that the Bird  made during  not only with new sounds but with different instruments. The Toronto  concert was recorded  for posterity, and  remains a classic of the undoubted  peak  of Parker’s musical creativity of the early fifties. 

Tragically Parker began to fall back into the abyss of drug abuse, which he never pulled himself out of, passing away at the age of just  34 in 1954, leaving a gap in the world of music which will probably never be filled.

 

 Please take a moment to click through the links below and pick out a particular Charlie Parker song that you may never have heard before and enjoy the unique talents of this gifted arist.

 

 

   
       
  Almost Like Being in Love Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Easy to Love Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Embracable You Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Esterelitta ( Little Star) Listen to this song on You Tube  
  How High the Moon Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I Got Rhythm Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I Love Paris Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I Remember You Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Laura Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Love for Sale Listen to this song on You Tube  
  What is Thing called Love Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Why do I love you Listen to this song on You Tube