Charles Christopher Parker. HIS father did not play a huge role In his life and left Charlie and his mother after Charlie was born. Charlie’s mother, Adelaide “Eddie” Bailey, was a strong independent woman who was half African American and half Choctaw Indian. She soon moved the family to Kansas City, Missouri. Charlie then began going to school. In 1931, Charlie went to Lincoln High School in Kansas City where he played in the school band. Around this time Charlie started experimenting with Kansas City’s Jazz scene.
In 1933, Charlie asked his mother to buy him an alto saxophone and she bought him a used one for $45 dollars. Charlie had no proper music experience, the only experience he really did have was the short period of time playing in the school band. He would learn everything he could by sneaking into clubs, standing in the doorway, and trying to memorize everything that came out from the nightclubs. When Charlie turned 15, he decided he was going to try his luck as a professional Jazz musician. Kansas City was a hopping city at the time and soon became one of the best Jazz cities In the
Southwest. Charlie soon learned about a drug he would never forget. He was first introduced to heroin at 15 In 1935. A friend Introduced him to the drug, and he never looked back. In November of 1936, Charlie was on his was too job in the Ozark Mountains when the car he was in slide on some ice and crashed. One of the band members died and another was seriously injured. Charlie broke a couple ribs and fractured his spine. These injuries are what seemed to set Charlie into a full-fledged junkie. He started using heroin more and more as a way of dealing with the pain from the accident.
Then It Just got worse and worse In 1937, Charlie met Jay McMahon and Henry “Buster” Smith. Jay McMahon became a friend and Henry “Buster” Smith became sort of a mentor. Henry formed a band in the fall of 1937 and asked Parker to join. Parser’s drug addiction was getting worse and he didn’t have a steady Job, only jumping from gig to gig. In early 1939, Charlie decided that he had to leave and get to New York. It wasn’t the easiest for Charlie when he was in New York and he had dodo whatever he could do to get by. For a while he washed dishes at a place called Jimmy’s Chicken Shack.
Time went on and around 1941, things started picking up for Charlie in the music scene. He started jamming at some Harlem nightclubs and he was starting to get introduced to some real big people. Charlie became involved with Jay McMahon and his Orchestra again and soon Dizzy Gillespie became involved. Dizzy and Charlie soon started to develop a relationship. Many things happened from this point on. Parker got involved in another band in April of 1943. The band included Dizzy Gillespie, “Little” Benny Harris, Bennie Green, Warders Gary, Billy Stickiness, Sarah Vaughan, and Charlie Parker. This was the new Earl Hines group.
Things went on and some partnerships split up, but one that always remained was Dizzy and Charlie. As time went on they got numerous recordings done and got their names out into the world. They then decided to take a trip to California. Dizzy brought six guys with him to California instead of five because he new Charlie would sometimes not show up. His heroin addiction was getting worse his ticket and stayed in California. He became progressively worse and finally broke down. He stumbled into a recording session and fumbled his way thought half of it. He had to be taken back to the hotel because he was so doped up.
He soon got arrested for an outburst in the room and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Things went on and finally he made in back to New York on April 7, 1947. Parker, while in New York, went through many women and did a lot of recording. He finally had two children with Chant Richardson. In 1954, his daughter died off heart condition that she was born with. This crushed Parker and sent him over the edge. For the couple of years before this he had been playing out and recording with a umber of different people but the loss of his daughter sent his life crashing down.
Charlie was hospitalized several times for emotional problems and drug abuse. His last important Job was at Birdman on March 4 and 5th 1955. He was part of an all- star type group that included Kenny Dirham, Bud Powell, Charles Mining, and Art Blakely. The first night went well, but on the second night Charlie and Powell fought. Parker got trashed while playing and was asked by the manager to leave the club that was named after him. The next day was the one-year anniversary of his daughter’s death. There are a couple different stories about how Charlie died.
The most accepted one is that on his way out of New York he stopped at an old friend’s house. Parser’s doctor examined him there and said that he was ill and should be taken to a hospital. Charlie didn’t agree with that and decided to stay there for a while. By March 12, he was in better health and he could sit up and watch TV. That night while he was sitting and watching the Tommy and Jimmy Dodder’s show, he started laughing and choked and died. Another story is that he died due to internal injuries hat he had received in a fight a couple nights earlier.
A more recent story is that Parker had gotten shot and doctor was paid to cover it up. Whatever the real story is we can never be absolutely sure. The only thing that we can be sure of is that he is a musical genius. I have listened to Charlie Parkers concert from 1949 at Carnegie Hall. During this performance, Bird was at his peak of heroin addiction and abuse. His life was chaotic and unrealized and it reflects in some of the songs. I liked every single song on the album and as I listened to it more I liked it more and more.
The first song was titled “Ornithology”, this song seemed sort of angry to me, very wild and be-poppy. He would Just rip through the scales going a fast and as wild as he seemed he could. It felt like he was getting out all of his aggression. The trumpet wasn’t as wild as the sax but still kept up and stood its ground. The piano was a quite low sound compared the Charlie screaming saxophone. I liked it, it seemed angry. The second song I heard was “Cheryl”. This song is a lot more laid back and relaxing it still has a be-poppy feel to it but it wasn’t so frantic.
It was a sweet naming song, it had a really mellow bass line and made you tap your foot. The next song was called “OK-OK” and the title fits it. At the very beginning it is kind of sexy then it Just goes crazy. It breaks into crazy lines that are outrageously fast and the trumpet keeps right up with the sax, and at the very end it gets all sexy again for a minute. The number four song is one of my favorites, “Bird of Paradise”. This one is different from every other song on the album it is a lot mellower and laid back. It still has fast lines but not half as fast as the other ones.