Overtom's weblog

BIRD  (8 june 2004)

If there were such a silly thing as a contest in Heaven of the best musicians of all times, I'm sure one of the three winners would be Charlie Parker.

      Charlie Parker

The first who directed my attention to Parker's music was Jack (click ). As soon as I heard this wonderful music, I fell in love with it.

Parker's music is so rich in musical ideas that some people who hear him the first time get confused and consider it mere cacaphony.

Parker's musical style is generally referred to as bebop. If you have a fast connection, you could try to hear some of his music here. Unfortunately, most of these tunes are finished before they can become interesting. But Bird Of Paradise, Out Of Nowhere, Parker's Mood, Laura and Don't Blame Me may give you some idea of his music. But don't blame me for the popups.

As you may know ( click), melodies are usually based on chords. Musicians who play an existing tune may be charged a fee because most tunes have an owner, probably a rich company like Warner Bros or MGM. But improvising jazz musicians are mainly interested in the chords. They don't need the original tune. So Charlie converted quite a few existing tunes into sequences based on the same chords, but to untrained ears not recognizable as the original melody.

These tunes were often so strange and different from what people were used to that Louis Armstrong, a jazz musician himself, referred to them as Chinese music.

    Louis Armstrong

You sometimes see that lesser performers of any kind of art are rather defensive in their appreciation of others. They are eager to show what good taste they have and how well they know what is real art and especially what's not. 

It's a characteristic of the really great to have no doubt about their own talent and to be generous in their praise of others.  Charlie's talent was undisputed and he was always willing to point out the good in the music of his less gifted colleagues.

Charlie's nickname was Bird. There are several explanations of this name. Some say it was because Charlie lived free as a bird. Many of his tunes have names associated with birds, like Yardbird Suite, Ornithology, Bird's Nest and Bird Of Paradise.

If you believe drunkards and drug addicts don't go to Heaven, then don't expect to find Charlie amongst the celestial angels. His body was so much affected by alcohol and drugs that when he died in 1955, the death certificate read: "Charles, Christopher Parker, male, black, apparent age 65 ..."

He was only thirty-four years old.

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