He’s been called “the American Mozart.” And the comparison is notable. Both Charlie Parker and his Austrian counterpart died in their 30s, both were remarkable improvisors and gifted musicians, and both lived (shall we say) extreme lives.
And you can argue that Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (born August 29, 1920) was as influential a figure in 20th century music as Mozart was in the 18th. Parker inspired writers, filmmakers, poets, artists and of course countless musicians. This list is a long one.
One of Parker’s earliest literary champions was the Beat writer Jack Kerouac.
Charley Parker Looked like Buddha Charley Parker, who recently died Laughing at a juggler on the TV after weeks of strain and sickness, was called the Perfect Musician. And his expression on his face Was as calm, beautiful, and profound As the image of the Buddha Represented in the East, the lidded eyes, The expression that says “All is Well” —This was what Charley Parker Said when he played, All is Well. You had the feeling of early-in-the-morning Like a hermit’s joy, or like the perfect cry Of some wild gang at a jam session “Wail, Wop”—Charley burst His lungs to reach the speed Of what the speedsters wanted Was his Eternal Slowdown. A great musician and a great creator of forms That ultimately find expression In mores and what have you. — from Mexico City Blues, Jack Kerouac
What Charlie Parker recordings should we be listening to today? Well, one of our favorites has always been the Complete Live Performances on Savoy: Sept. 29, 1947-Oct. 25, 1950.
Orrin Keepnews produced this four-CD set, so you know it’s done right. Great liner notes by Loren Schoenberg. With a list of suggested books for further reading. And state-of-the-art (for 1998) digital transfers.
For those who want to dig deep, there’s The Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes, covering everything Bird recorded for those two labels from 1945 through 1948.
And (if you can find it) the 1948 recordings made at the Royal Roost in New York, released on ESP-Disk’ in 1973 are a treat. With live announcements by the one and only “Symphony Sid” Torin.
It’s all just music. Real gone music.Charlie Parker