Charlie Parker

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Parker, (Charles, Jr.) Charlie (“Bird” or “Yardbird”)

(1920–55) jazz musician; born in Kansas City, Kans. (Note: His name sometimes appears as Charles Christopher Parker Jr., a misnomer.) An only child, he was raised by his mother in Kansas City, Mo., an important center of jazz and blues activity in the 1930s. He received his first music lessons on the baritone horn in the public schools in 1931; three years later he dropped out of school to concentrate on mastering the alto saxophone and watching Lester Young, Count Basie, Hot Lips Page, and other locally based musicians. In 1936 he spent the summer playing in the Ozarks with George E. Lee's band; that same year, he entered the first of his four legal or common law marriages, became a father, and developed an addiction to heroin. Between 1937 and 1939, he played in Kansas City with Lawrence Keyes, Tommy Douglas, Harland Leonard, and his mentor Buster Smith, and he was an inveterate participant in the city's competitive jam sessions. He spent most of 1939 in New York, where he frequently heard the virtuoso pianist Art Tatum and began working out the rhythmic and harmonic ideas that would form the basis of modern jazz. Between 1940 and 1942 he began gaining attention as a featured sideman on recordings and broadcasts with Jay McShann. In 1943 to 1944, he played briefly with the big bands of Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine, where he was a galvanizing figure among his rebellious colleagues, including Dizzy Gillespie. The year 1945 marked a turning point in his career: he led his own group in New York, made numerous combo recordings in the new and controversial bebop style, and played extensively with Gillespie. In December 1945 they played an unsuccessful engagement in Hollywood, but Parker remained in Los Angeles. In June 1946, he suffered a nervous breakdown related to his drug addiction and alcoholism, and he was confined for six months at Camarillo State Hospital. He made a triumphant return to New York in 1947 and formed his celebrated quintet featuring Miles Davis and Max Roach. For the next four years, he worked almost exclusively in New York and recorded the majority of his most famous performances. He toured in Europe in 1949 and 1950, and was showcased in a variety of settings, including a string ensemble, a big band, and Afro-Cuban bands in New York clubs and concert halls and on records. By 1951 he was the most influential jazz musician in the world, but his notoriety as a heroin addict had also become legendary, and the New York police withdrew his cabaret card, a requisite to working in New York nightclubs. Thereafter, he adopted a more itinerant lifestyle, playing with pick-up groups in Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, and in California, and appearing as guest soloist with bands led by Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. His cabaret card was reinstated in late 1953, but by then he was beset by sporadic employment, debt, and failing physical and mental health. He twice attempted suicide in 1954 and voluntarily committed himself to Bellevue Hospital in New York. His last public appearance was on March 5, 1955, at Birdland, the club that had been named in his honor in 1949. He died seven days later. His chaotic life formed the basis for the 1987 Clint Eastwood-directed dramatic film Bird.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
This is what he wanted: he was looking for another Charlie Parker. They both needed each other desperately.
He envisions a West African man dancing atop stilts, turning and spinning so as to "suggest the power of human beings to master the subtle-to-savage disruptions of rhythm and even that define experience." Then he executes a cinematic jump-cut to Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, where Charlie Parker is playing "for the Thursday night courtship ritual of the 'kitchen mechanics'-the female domestics on their night off, dressed in homespun Cinderella finery.
The Wolf in Winter , 12th in the Charlie Parker series, pits Parker against the inhabitants of a small Maine town which appears to be blessed by particularly good fortune at a time when others are suffering.
Quiz of the Day ANSWERS: 1 Charlie Parker; 2 Castor and Pollux; 3 1955; 4 Little by little; 5 That between Great Britain and Ireland; 6 Roald Amundsen; 7 Joe Johnson; 8 Rudyard Kipling; 9 Johnny Cash; 10 Watford.
for Charlie Parker I was once ruled by my appetites too, man.
THE BURNING SOUL John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 17.99) * FANS of the Irish author's spooky Charlie Parker thrillers will be surprised by John Connolly's latest outing.
In this contribution to the history of jazz and the avant garde arts scene in New York, NY, music historian Kastin (I Hear America Singing) traces the life and patron role of heiress Pannonica ("Nica") Rothschild de Koenigswarter (1913-1988) in the careers of such jazz greats as Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker (who died in her hotel suite).
The hotel general manager, Charlie Parker, said, 'Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway.
The previous Speaker, Charlie Parker, resigned from the position when he was named Minister of Natural Resources and Energy.
To recall the greatest jazz concert ever: Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Mingus, Bud Powell, and Max Roach at Toronto's Massey Hall in 1953.