Bird flies away...
It's been 65 years since the world of jazz lost one of their legends.
Between 50 and 60 – that’s how old the coroner thought the dead body was that was lying on Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s sofa. Drugs, alcohol, an ulcer and pneumonia had gotten the better of Charlie Parker who was really only 34 years old that fateful Saturday 12th March 1955…
One could go on forever waxing lyrical about how amazing ‘Bird’ was. Beyond the richness of his harmonies and the complexity of his rhythmic frame, the saxophonist always delivered insanely lyrical phrases. His virtuosity was revolutionary, his sensuality when approaching ballads unmatched. Obviously, jazz would never be the same again.
How did this musician manage to impose timelessness in his art with such ease? A single phrase played by Bird, and everything else would just flow. While the saxophonist may have only spent 34 years on this Earth, the influence he had on his colleagues and the wider jazz genre was unmistakable. Without Charlie Parker, without Louis Armstrong, without Duke Ellington, jazz as we know it wouldn’t exist!
In the 1940s, he and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie broke into the genre by bringing new devilish tempos where the central core was improvisation based on harmonic structure. It was a new style where the excellence of technique was always completely original. Be-bop was born and thanks to Charlie Parker, jazz entered a modern era. These new approaches to melody, rhythm and harmony would go on to considerably influence contemporary musicians.
Charlie Parker was also talented when it came to writing, leaving behind standards like Scrapple From The Apple, Now’s The Time, Au Privave, Yardbird Suite, Donna Lee (with Miles Davis), Billie’s Bounce, Ko-Ko and Ornithology (with Benny Harris). As is the case with many great artistic talents unfortunately, his complex personality led to him struggling with inner turmoil, much of which contributed to his ill health.