Charlie Parker: Yardbird Suite

12 Mar

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker compilation album, one of many

Remembering saxophonist Charlie Parker on the 56th anniversary of his death, better known perhaps not by his first name or last name, but by his nickname.

Bird has been dead now more than a generation longer than he was alive, yet his memory hasn’t dimmed a note. He’s memorialized in song (many times over), venue (Birdland), literature (On The Road, excerpt below) and film (Clint Eastwood’s Bird).

He was 34 when he died in a tony New York apartment in 1955, just a few days after his final appearance at Birdland. He suffered from addictions, and when he died he had a wife he hadn’t divorced and a common-law wife he hadn’t married. He was buried in Kansas City, though he didn’t want to be. All of it perhaps enhanced the legend.

But, no doubt, he changed how and what we listen to, to this day. From “There are two forms of jazz: before Parker and after Parker!”

From Kerouac’s On The Road, on Parker and fellow saxophonist Lester Young.

“Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest — Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonius Monk and madder Gillespie — Charlie Parker in his early days when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while he’s playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.” — Jack Kerouac, On The Road, pages 239-240

Next: Roy Haynes



One Response to “Charlie Parker: Yardbird Suite”


  1. Sunday Jazz: Vintage Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for Memorial Day - October 14, 2011

    […] jazz) ( (“Albino Red” Rodney ( Parker: Yardbird Suite ( […]

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