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Sunday, 25 December 2016

Charlie Parker

The jazz saxophone giant Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas on August 29, 1920. He was the only child of Adelaide "Addie" (Bailey) and Charles Parker.

In 1939 Charlie Parker (playing at a Harlem jam session) begins experimenting with a style which will be called first ReBop, then Bebop.

Bebop is synonymous with fast improvisation and complicated chord structures and Charlie Parker's exciting alto saxophone flights won him the popular nickname of Bird, yet he played equally creatively in ballads and in heartfelt blues such as "Parker's Mood"'. His broken melodies were rich with surprising accents and highly contrasted rhythms.

Portrait of Charlie Parker in the Three Deuces of New York (N.Y.), in August 1947

The classic bebop combo consisted of saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, and piano. This was a format used (and popularized) by both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in their 1940s groups and recordings.

In 1949, the New York night club Birdland was named in Parker's honor. Located at 1678 Broadway, just north of West 52nd Street in Manhattan, it was popular with many of the writers of the Beat generation.

Three years later, jazz pianist George Shearing wrote "Lullaby of Birdland", named for both Parker and the nightclub.

The famous jazz musician Miles Davis started out as a teenager playing bebop with Charlie Parker.

Parker married for the first time when he was 15, and had a succession of four marriages throughout his short life.

Parker and his common-law wife, Chan Berg, lived in the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village between 1950 and 1954.

151 Avenue B in 2011
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As a teenager, Parker developed a morphine addiction while hospitalized after an automobile accident, and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He continued using heroin throughout his life, and it caused him to miss performances and be considered unemployable

At one point, due to his excessive drinking and trouble-making, Parker was banned from the Birdland club that beared his name.


Parker's addiction to heroin ultimately contributed to his death. He passed away in New York City on March 12, 1955 at the age of 34 from cirrhosis, internal bleeding and pneumonia caused by a heart attack, whilst watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television.

Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit, located close to I-435 and East Truman Road.

Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery

A biographical film called Bird, starring Forest Whitaker as Parker and directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in 1988. The movie stemmed from Eastwood's enthusiasm for Bebop.

Sources Comptons Encyclopedia, Artistfacts

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