WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 8: Charlie Parker

Feb 1, 2017

Yesterday’s No. 9 was Count Basie, and he influenced a kid from Kansas City who became the fastest, cleanest operator of an alto saxophone through the remote harmonies of bop that followed Big Band’s heyday. “Yardbird” or “Bird,” he was Charlie Parker. You voted this phoenix-like talent the No. 8 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

  • If you want to know what bebop is, look no further than Bird. The fiery rhythms and harmonies of “Cherokee” and “Ko-Ko” will make your head spin, but the 1950 album Charlie Parker with Strings cries out with an unmatched lyrical beauty.
  • He said he spent three to four years practicing up to 15 hours a day
  • Parker’s “favorite alto player in the world”? Perhaps the Bird’s polar opposite: Paul Desmond.
  • He was a big fan of Stravinsky.
  • He picked up his nickname, it was said, because he once ran over a chicken, sometimes called a “yardbird.”
  • Troubled with addiction most of his life, he died of pneumonia and complications from liver cirrhosis, a bleeding ulcer, and a heart attack. He was 34.

Listen to Bob Perkins and Charlie Parker here, in BP’s series The Great Migration (scroll down to #12).

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