is born in Kansas City, an only
child. His mother is religious, industrious and determined; his
father, once a theatre entertainer then a railway chef on the Pullman
line and rarely at home, dies of alcoholism when Parker is a child.
kept thinking there's bound to be something else ...I could here
it sometimes, but I couldn't play it."
Jay McShann's band in 1940 with whom he first records in 1941.
He joins the Earl Hines Orchestra
in December 1942 and moves on to Billy Eckstine's band in May
1944: both ensembles include Dizzy
Gillespie. During this period Parker and Gillespie take part
in the after hours jam sessions at Minton's
Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House in New York, where
travelling musicians joined the house band, which included Thelonious
Monk and Kenny Clarke and guitarist
Charlie Christian. This is where the language of bebop was honed,
although many swing players, like Coleman
Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben
Webster and Roy Eldridge, were
travels to California in December 1945 and stays on
until April 1947; Howard McGhee on trumpet joins his quintet.
While on the West Coast Parker spends six months at Camarillo
State Hospital (June 1946 - January 1947), his poor state brought
about by his various addictions and a nervous breakdown.
Parker's temperament can not cope with family life, and his second
wife, Chan Parker, can not tame
him. The debts increase and his employment prospects are battered
through ill-health and his own unreliability. His daughter, Pree,
dies in 1954, and in that year Parker attempts suicide twice and
voluntarily commits himself to Bellevue Hospital in New York.
He dies in March 1955 in the Manhatten appartment of a friend,
the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter (who later cares for Thelonious
Monk). The immediate cause is a bleeding ulcer and pneumonia,
but on the death certificate the doctor estimates Parker's age
to be between 50 and 60!
out of High School. He has had some music lessons, but has felt
frustrated playing baritone saxophone in his school orchestra before
swapping to the alto in 1933.
He works as a
professional musician with local groups, at first sporadically,
listening and learning along the way. Lester
Young is one of his idols, whose solos he learns by rote. Buster
Smith is an early professional mentor; he plays also with George
Lee's band and, in 1938, with the Jay
McShann band. Parker is no child prodigy: he
practises diligently and listens widely. He is fascinated by
playing, whose kaleidoscope of enriched harmonies he
absorbs whilst washing dishes in a Harlem nightclub where Art Tatum
is the resident pianist.
and Gillespie play in small groups in the night clubs centred around
New York's 52nd Street. A strike by the American Federation
of Musicians has silenced most of the recording industry since August
1942, so Parker and his emerging bebop fashion are recorded not
until September 1944, although not as a leader of any session until
April 1947 Parker returns to New York: this
period is the apogee of his career. His first quartet
includes the young Miles Davis and Max
Roach. He records in a variety of settings and groups, including
strings in 1950.
is a musical nomad until his cabaret license is reinstated in late-1953,
revoked in July 1951 by the Narcotics squad. Parker's
health and state of mind continues to slide and this
is often reflected in his playing, although there are still plenty
of high moments, such as the famous Massey
Hall concert in 1953 which reunited him with Dizzy
Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud
Powell and Charles Mingus.
Parker heard rhythm and rhythmic patterns differently, and after
we had started playing, together, I began to play, rhythmically,
more like him. In that sense he influenced me, and all of us, because
what makes the style is not what you play but how you play it."
Dizzy Gillespie on first meeting Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker was cast as an iconoclastic figure, he was, in fact,
steeped in tradition. He had paid his dues and as a youngster had
listened extensively to all forms of jazz, and to all forms of music
in general. There is no doubt that, as his career progressed and
as he met all the challenges the jazz world could throw at him,
... he felt constricted by the jazz idiom.
TO BE COMPLETED...
Parker has had
an influence on every school of jazz since 1945. Collections of
his solos were published as early as 1948, and his solos were learnt
note-by-note by many of his contemporaries. Although his name is
widespread, he never caught the popular imagination like, say, Armstrong
or even Coltrane, and he was always known as iconoclastic and 'difficult'
to listen to....