The only child of Charles and Addie
Parker, Charlie Parker was one of the most important and influential
saxophonists and jazz players of the 1940ís.
When Parker was still a child, his family moved to Kansas City,
Missouri, where jazz, blues and gospel music were flourishing. His
first contact with music came from school, where he played baritone
horn with the schoolís band. When he was 15, he showed a great interest
in music and a love for the alto saxophone. Soon, Parker was playing
with local bands until 1935, when he left school to pursue a music
From 1935 to 1939, Parker worked in Kansas City with several local
jazz and blues bands from which he developed his art. In 1939, Parker
visited New York for the first time, and he stayed for nearly a
year working as a professional musician and often participating
in jam sessions. The New York atmosphere greatly influenced Parker's
In 1938, Parker joined the band of pianist Jay McShann, with whom
he toured around Southwest Chicago and New York. A year later,
traveled to Chicago and was a regular performer at a club on 55th
street. Parker soon moved to New York. He washed dishes at a local
food place where he met guitarist Biddy Fleet, the man who taught
him about instrumental harmony. Shortly afterwards, Parker returned
to Kansas City to attend his fatherís funeral. Once there, he joined
Harlan Leonardís Rockets and stayed for five months. In 1939,
Yardbird rejoined McShann and was placed in charge of the reed
section. Then, in 1940, Parker made his first recording with the
During the four years that Parker stayed with McShann's band, he
got the opportunity to perform solo in several of their recordings,
such as Hootie Blues, Sepian Bounce,
and the 1941 hit Confessing the Blues.
In 1942, while on tour with McShann, Parker performed in jam sessions
at Monroeís and Mintonís Playhouse in Harlem. There he caught the
attention of up-and-coming jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and
Thelonious Monk. Later that year, Parker broke with McShann and
joined Earl Hines for eight months.
The year 1945 was extremely important for Parker. During that time
he led his own group in New York and also worked with Gillespie
in several ensembles. In December, Parker and Gillespie took their
music to Hollywood on a six-week nightclub tour. Parker continued
to perform in Los Angeles until June 1946, when he suffered a nervous
breakdown and was confined at a state hospital. After his release
in January 1947, Parker returned to New York and formed a quintet
that performed some of his most famous tunes.
From 1947 to 1951, Parker worked in a number of nightclubs, radio
studios, and other venues performing solo or with the accompaniment
of other musicians. During this time, he visited Europe where he
was cheered by devoted fans and did numerous recordings. March 5,
1955, was Parkerís last public engagement at Birdland, a nightclub
in New York that was named in his honor. He died a week later in
a friendís apartment.
Charles "Yardbird" Parker was an amazing saxophonist who gained
wide recognition for his brilliant solos and innovative improvisations.
He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential and talented
musicians in jazz history.
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