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Charles Christopher Parker, Jr . (Kansas City, August 29, 1920 – New York, March 12, 1955), known as Charlie Parker , was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Nicknamed Bird and Yardbird, he is considered one of the best performers of alto saxophone in the history of that musical genre, being one of the key figures in his evolution and one of his most legendary and admired artists. In the same way, according to jazz critics, he is one of the most important musicians in history with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Along with Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and others, he is one of the initiators of bebop. His style breaks with the swing and is based on improvisation on a melody modifying the chords, thus creating new variations on the structure of the songs. In this sense, aside from his interpretative work, Parker is the author of several themes that have become jazz standards, such as “Ornithology”, “Anthropology”, “Scrapple from the Apple”, “Ko Ko”, “Now’s the Time »And« Parker’s Mood ».
Only child of Charles and Addie Parker, his beginnings in music were as a boy. He played at first the bombard (baritone tuba), before switching to the saxophone. His mother refused to tuba, thinking that it was not a suitable instrument for him, so, saving from everywhere, he bought her a high saxophone. He learned in a self-taught way paying attention to the great saxophonists of the time, especially in Lester Young and Buster Smith, his first influences. At fourteen he left school to immerse himself fully in the musical environment of his city. After some frustrating experiences in several jam sessions, Parker got, after working hard on his technique, to be considered as early as 1937 (when joining the territory band of Jay McShann), a leading figure of jazz.
Parker first came to New York in 1939, where he worked as a dishwasher in a club where he could hear Art Tatum every night. He made his debut recording with Jay McShann in 1940, creating solo highlights with a small group from the McShann orchestra on tracks like “Oh, Lady Be Good” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” With McShann’s big band, in 1941 he would be able to impress audiences with his new musical ideas. After playing with Dizzy Gillespie for the first time in 1940, he had a brief collaboration with the Noble Sissle orchestra in 1942, played the tenor saxophone with the bop orchestra of Earl Hines in 1943 and was several months of 1944 in the orchestra of the singer Billy Eckstine, although he would leave it before the group made their first recordings. Gillespie was also part of the orchestras of Hines and Eckstine; at the end of 1944 the two musicians started working together.
Although Charlie Parker recorded with the group of Tiny Grimes in 1944, it was his collaboration with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in 1945 that would give him a definitive knowledge of the jazz world with such innovative songs as «Groovin ‘High» , «Dizzy Atmosphere», «Shaw ‘Nuff», «Salt Peanuts» and «Hot House»; his solos represented an absolute novelty for listeners accustomed to the conventions of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. His recordings of 1943 and 1944 gave carte blanche to bebop.
Parker’s health was affected by drugs. Heroin addict almost since his adolescence, many musicians imitated him in this with the conviction that they could raise their musical quality.
When Gillespie and Parker (known as “Diz and Bird”) traveled to Los Angeles, they were greeted with a mixture of hostility and indifference, especially by older musicians. They returned to New York. But impulsively, Parker decided to stay in Los Angeles and, after some recordings and performances (including the classic version of “Oh, Lady Be Good” with Jazz at the Philharmonic and the sessions for the album Dial Sessions), the combination of drugs and alcohol resulted in a stroke and six months of confinement at Camarillo State Hospital. Rehabilitated in January 1947, he returned to New York and performed some of the best performances of his career, leading a quintet that included Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. In 1947, with Dizzy Gillespie, he appeared at the Carnegie Hall in New York, playing with the orchestra and with his quintet. The event is available on the Charlie Parker & amp; Dizzy Gillespie: Bird & amp; Diz at the Carnegie Hall. Parker, who recorded simultaneously for the companies Savoy and Dial, was in top form during the years 1947-1951, visiting Europe in 1949 and 1950, and realizing the old dream of recording with strings in 1949 after signing with the Verve label of Norman Granz .
In 1951, his cabaret license was revoked in New York, which made it difficult for him to play in clubs. His problems with drugs became acute and, although he could continue to play in an inspired manner (as evidenced by his recording of 1953 at the Concert at Massey Hall in Canada with Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach and Charles Mingus), his career went downhill. In 1954, with the death of a daughter because she lacked money for adequate treatment of pneumonia, she carried out two suicide attempts and, finally, died in March 1955 at the age of 34 as a result of a cardiocirculatory collapse.
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