Charlie Parker

Bird, or Charlie “Yardbird” Parker Jr [1920 - 1955], saxophonist is maybe the first person you would think of when you hear the word “bebop”. His influence on the history of jazz is so strong that some divide it into jazz before and after Charlie Parker.

He created a lot of standard tunes like “Donna Lee”, “Anthropology”, “Blues For Alice”, “Billie's Bounce”, “Ornithology”, “Confirmation”, and “Ko-Ko”. Ko-Ko was recorded in 1945 and is considered by many to be the very first bebop tune recorded.

Ko-Ko is based on the “Cherokee” changes.

“I remember one night before Monroe’s I was jamming in a chili house on Seventh Avenue between 139th and 140th. It was December 1939. Now I had been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used at the time, and I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else. I could hear it sometimes but I couldn’t play it. Well, that night I was working over “Cherokee,” and as I did I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I’d been hearing. I came alive.” –Charlie Parker. For more on the musical breakthrough of Charlie Parker, see Charlie Parker By Carl Woideck and Visions of jazz By Gary Giddins

Here's a later version of Ko-Ko from 1947 with Charlie Parker (alto sax), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), John Lewis (piano), Al McKibbon (bass), and Joe Harris (drums).

When I first heard Charlie Parker, I said, 'That's how our music should be played . . .I'd never heard anything like him. It was scary! . . . I knew we were making something new. It was magic. Nobody on the planet was playing like that but us.' –Dizzy Gillespie

Charlie Parker master class with Dave Frank

insightful analysis of Parkers playing! Get the Class notes to the Charlie Parker Night at Dave Frank School of Jazz is posted on Dave Franks website.

Charlie Parker on Guitar

Jazzerman, the dutch jazz guitarist Dick Onstenk, performs Charlie Parker solos note-for-note over the original tracks on YouTube: “Hot Blues”, “Ornithology” and “Bloomdido”.

Charlie Parker Documentary

Celebrating Bird - The Triumph of Charlie Parker


External links