Charlie Parker really helped influence and guide the way for other Jazz Caucasians during the time of bee-bop and will be remembered forever from what his talent brought to the table of Jazz music. Charlie Parker was born on August 29th 1920 and was the only child in the family of Charles and Addle Parker. He was born in Kansas City, Kansas but shortly after his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri where Jazz was thriving during the time. Charlie did attend school where he first found his love for music by playing the baritone horn in the school’s band.
He also started to play in the local youth group bands to practice and display his music to people. At the age of 13 he became enamored with the Alto saxophone and that had become “his” specific instrument that he chose to play. When Charlie was 15 years old he decided to drop out of school to pursue more in his music career. Around 1935 until 1939 Charlie worked in Kansas City with different Jazz groups to work on his music and develop more as an artist In Jazz. More specifically In 1937 Parker played with some of his role models he looked up to such as the tenor saxophone player Lester Young and the alto saxophone player Buster smith.
He really saw the passion and Allen these two had and it inspired him to want to learn more and influenced his as well with his own music. During 1938 Charlie joined Jay McMahon, a pianist, band and toured with him in Chicago and New York. After this time Charlie returned to Chicago for a little while and was a local musician and preformed at a club on 55th street. In 1939 Charlie Parker got the chance to go to New York City for his first time and participate in Jam sessions with other Jazz musicians. It was here in New York City that Parker stayed for one year and worked tat professional musician.
He claims that e really found his ” style” and the atmosphere of New York really helped Influence his music. During his stay for a short time he took a job as a dishwasher for extra cash and met guitarist Biddy Fleet who parker claims taught him about instrumental harmony. While In New York City Charlie received the news of his fathers death and returned to his home town of Kansas City for the funeral. While back in his hometown he Joined a band called Harlan Lemonade’s Rockets and played with them for a short five months before returning to play in Jay Mechanic’s band and was made In charge of the reed section.
He played and toured with them In the early offs. In 1940 Charlie parker made his first recording with Mechanic’s band and at this time 1 OFF was gaining some fame and becoming more popular. Charlie stayed with Mechanic’s band for about 4 years having the opportunity to play many solos within the band such as 1941 hit Confessing the Blues, hotel blues, and sepia bounce. In 1942 Charlie parker performed in many Jam sessions in Harlem New York at Monomer’s and Mouton’s Playhouse. While performing there he really caught the eye of other flourishing Jazz artists such as Theologies Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.
Like many other jazz musicians at the time Parker had been using the drug heroin on and off since he was 17 and this drug really did a number on many of the Jazz artists. This was Just one struggle Charlie had to deal with while being a musician and was hard for him to steer clear of because that the time “everyone” was doing it. Though struggling with that parker kept going and eventually quit Mechanic’s band and Joined Earl Hines band for about 8 months. The year 1945 was an important and memorable year for Charlie.
First he began leading his own Jazz group in New York City and often played at many Jazz clubs. He also did many ensembles with Dizzy Gillespie. In December of that year Parker and Gillespie were heading on a six week tour in California. On the way there they had some tough times for the fact that Parker was still heavily addicted to heroin, and being that they had to take a train to get to California it was such a struggle for Charlie because he had no access to drugs and was going through a withdrawal state in his body.
As soon as they got to California Parker was able to locate a drug dealer by the name of “Moose the Mooch” and would split some profits with him from his music in exchange for drugs, he even named a song after his man. Charlie Parker went on to continue playing in Los Angles until in June he suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in Commercial State Hospital. After this incident and he was released Parker ended up back in New York City where he put together his own quintet which had some famous players like Miles Davis and Max Roach in it. He was performing regularly in New York City now and touring around the USA.
In 1949 he got the chance to go to Paris, France and go on tour with Sidney Sachet. During this time he did numerous recording in Europe and had so many following fans there. Parker eventually returned to New York City and it was there at the Broadway nightclub named itself Bird Land, in honor of Charlie Parker. Also once he returned from Europe he made his most popular recording which was him playing the Alto Saxophone with strings included, everyone seemed to love it, even though he was converging his music with the popular style people wanted at the time it was still a hit.
Charlie Parker really became a role model for young saxophone players everywhere with his hard alto tone which was very expressive. He was really known for the establishment of 8th notes as basic units of his phrases. During all the success of his music career Charlie did end up meeting the love of his life, Chant Richardson. When he met Chant she already had a child from a previous marriage who Parker ended up adopting, and they together had 2 more children a daughter named Pre and a son named Braid.
From 1947 to about 1951 Charlie Parker was juggling 3 different worlds all together. He had the life of a musician where he played at various radio stations, night clubs and other venues recording songs and playing the instrument he loved really inspiring future sax player. He had the second life as a amply man supporting his wife and children and trying to be there for them. But the of a Junkie, no matter how hard he tried to kick the habit he would find himself getting into other bad habits like excessively drinking alcohol.
Because of this horrible third life he led it ultimately contributed to his musical and family downfall. Soon clubs and gigs began to fire Parker because he was Just too hard to work with because of his addiction to drugs. The event that truly got to Parker and hurt him so deep was the passing away of his daughter Pre when she died tragically from pneumonia. This event was taken very hard on both Charlie and Chant. He was so messed up on drugs at the time and was far away from his home with Chant. He returned back to his family for the funeral of his daughter.
March 5th, 1955 was Charlie Parser’s last public performance before the club that was named after his eventually had to fire him because of his addiction. Charlie still couldn’t kick his habit and it really did get the best of him He was visiting a friend’s house in New York City who was a wealthy patron of Jazz and went by the name of Baroness Inca De Songwriter. While he was there he was very ill and the Baroness would not let IM leave until he received some help for his condition. Charlie refused to go to the hospital almost like he was Just giving up on himself.
Charlie died on March 12, 1955 from and pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. When the coroner looked at his body, not knowing who Charlie was, he estimated the person to be of about 55 to 60 years old. Charlie was only 34 at the time of his death. Although Charlie died young he will always be remembered for his great talent and passion of Jazz. He without a doubt is one of the most influential Alto Saxophone players ever and it someone that saxophone players look up to and strive to try and integrate some of his great styles with their own.
Even though he did let drugs get the best of him he was able to accomplish a lot in his life time and set an example for others with his amazing solos and unique improvising. His ideas of harmony and melody were Just as much influential as well and his own style. Charlie Parker really was an “Architect” and Jazz and created a language in Jazz that had never been seen before, he led a risky lifestyle that made him able to create such a different style of music that really worked. The Bird will live on forever.