Henry Martin – ‘Charlie Parker, Composer’
Henry Martin – Charlie Parker, Composer
(Oxford University Press Hardback 338pp. Book review by Andy Hamilton)
The founder of bebop was born 100 years ago this year – an anniversary that for obvious reasons has been somewhat overlooked. As author Henry Martin argues, Bird’s reputation as an improviser of genius has meant that his career as a composer has been rather neglected. In his new volume, Martin rebalances our understanding. He begins with an overview of Parker’s life and musical training, but the bulk of the book is a critical analysis of Parker’s compositions. It features some intriguing discussion and observations, as well as dense but – as far as I can see – highly perceptive musical analysis. Martin is Professor of Music at Rutgers University in Newark – a composer, music theorist, and pianist, whose earlier titles include Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation (1996).
Happy 100th Birthday Bird!
He breathed in air.
He breathed out light.
Charlie Parker was my delight.Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008)
Chasin’ The Bird - Charlie Parker in California
"This is the great American graphic novel. You will not find another like it. You will not be able to replicate it. You will not be able to reproduce the honesty and truth that drips from every page. This is a look at not only a popular American figure, this is the dissection of a man, an addict, an artist, a human being.
This is not another title that should languish on store shelves. No! This is a masterwork that should be handed out in every Art college and Music Academy in the country. This is a depiction of the human condition and it is the most insightful look inside the mind and soul of an artist that we have seen in a generation."
New Graphic Novel
Charlie "Bird" Parker and and Dizzy Gillespie brought frenetic sounds of bebop from the East Coast jazz underground to the West Coast for a two-month residency at Billy Berg's Hollywood jazz club in 1945. This marked the beginning of a tumultuous two year-stint for Bird bumming around L.A., showing up at jam sessions, crashing on people's couches, causing havoc in public places, and recording some of his most groundbreaking tracks, "A Night in Tunisia" and "Ornithology." Chasing the Bird explores Bird's relationship with the people he met encountered during his L.A. sojourn and those found themselves in the orbit of the jazz genius.
Available: September 16th, 2020
According to Frederick J. Spencer, MD*, Charlie Parker died from lobar pneumonia on the 12th of March 1955 in the apartment of the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter in the Stanhope Hotel, New York City. He was 34 years old.
Born in 1920 in Wyandotte County, Kansas, the saxophonist Charlie ‘Yardbird’ or ‘Bird’ Parker emerged onto the jazz scene at the end of the Second World War while Big Band or ‘Swing’ was at the peak of its popularity. He was at the vanguard of a new style of jazz curtly titled ‘Bebop’, which became the foundation of modern jazz. Charlie Parker revolutionised the musical establishment, combining complex melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic forms, while displaying a complete mastery of the saxophone. Although Parker’s innovations have become part of the jazz lexicon and popular music, by the end of the 1940s he remained relatively unknown outside jazz circles. Most of the public never celebrated the young saxophone artist from Kansas City during his life and only learned of his role as a giant among modern jazz pioneers after his death in 1955.
D.H.Lawrence, in the poem 'Song of a Man Who Has Come Through' said of the artist's creative process:
"Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!"
These lines are very apt in discussing the life of Charlie Parker. The paradox of Parker's creativity juxtaposed with his self-destructiveness will probably never be fully understood. The channel through which his creativity was realised, while bordering on genius, was also influential in destroying him.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of Parker's birth, his influence still inspires new generations of musicians to carefully study their instruments, listen to the recordings and wonder at the mastery, technique and creativity of this troubled man of jazz. The pages on this site have attempted to gather facts about this enigmatic figure and dispel many of the more colourful stories and myths. Currently, the site focuses on the beginning and end of Parker's life. The years from 1940 to his death are not currently included on the site as this period of his life is very much a 'muddied track' and have been covered in greater detail elsewhere. It is hoped that Bird Lives may eventually include these years.