March 1951

Interview with Leonard Feather during Parker's Birdland gig, March 22-April 11, 1951. The interview was broadcast on the Voice of America's "Jazz Club USA," and appears on Philology Volume 9 (W 120) and Ember/Fat Boy FBB-901.

FEATHER: Do you have any plans at the moment about any future engagement?

PARKER: Well, about future engagements, no, not any exact plans. I guess you heard I'm breaking with my manager.

FEATHER: Yes, as a matter of fact, I sent an item to Down Beat about that just last week.

PARKER: Yes, well, I mean, after that maybe plans can be made but no, nothing special right now.

FEATHER: Well, lets talk about your recent trip to Europe, because I have a couple of records coming up by people you probably met over there, and I know you had a very interesting experience. It was quite a short trip, but a very eventful one. How long were you over there?

PARKER: Well, I was in Scandinavia eleven days and I was in Paris for four days, in Europe.

FEATHER: The Paris part was not for, actually for playing, was it? Just, it was a visit.

PARKER: Oh, just a visit, I went there strictly for a visit.

FEATHER: What did you do in Scandinavia? Who was with you there?

PARKER: Well, in Scandinavia I had the pleasure of working with Roy Eldridge, along with a Swedish band which consisted of RoIf Ericson, I guess you remember him? He was here with Woody Herman.

FEATHER: Oh, I certainly do.

PARKER: And I, er, some of the names I can't pronounce. Anyway, there were five musicians with me all the while, and then Roy had his own band and he did his thing with them. I did the thing...

FEATHER: Yeah, and where is Roy Eldridge now? Is he back?

PARKER: Well, he's in Paris.

FEATHER: Aha, does he intend to come back here? Or is he going to stay over indefinitely?

PARKER: Well, I don't know. I think he intends to come back. Anyway, he has his ticket back.

FEATHER: Oh, well, that's good news because we sure miss him. I got some records that he made in Paris and I want to play them on the show some day. I have one.thing where he sings the blues in French. It's really strange.

PARKER: Yes, I think I've heard that.

FEATHER: Yeah, that's great. Well, while we're talking about that, how about cutting in for a moment for some music that comes from over there. James Moody is the chief musician on this next side. Did you meet him over there?

PARKER: Yes, I saw him over there. I met him here first, though.

FEATHER: Did you work with him ever?

PARKER: No, I haven't, he's a very fine, only on the concert in 1949, in Paris that was.

FEATHER: Oh, I see. This is one of the sides he made I believe in Scandinavia and the title is "Blue and Moody."

[Feather plays the record.]

FEATHER: Do you know who Reinhold Svenson is?

PARKER: Reinhold Svenson? Sure, I know Reinhold Svenson.

FEATHER: Tell me about him.

PARKER: Well, he's a blind pianist, he's blond, he weighs about two hundred 35, 40 pounds...

FEATHER: No kidding?

PARKER: Very clever, very good musician, very jovial.

FEATHER: He certainly is very talented, too. He made a whole series of sides with a quintet over there, I think patterned after George Shearing, wasn't it?

PARKER: Yes, yes, that could be.

FEATHER: Sounds very much like it. Anyway, we have one of those sides here. They just brought out an LP consisting of eight Reinhold Svenson numbers and I think you'll like this one, "Dearly Beloved."

[Feather plays the record.]

FEATHER: Say one thing for that record, it has a fine surface, a lot of surface, anyway. Well, the music is good. Well, Charlie, I would like to get your opinion on something. I read a very interesting article just a few days ago in Ebony Magazine under the byline of Cab Calloway. Did you read it?

PARKER: Yes, Leonard, I saw such an article, and I've never read or heard of such a violent and contentious thing against musicians of today.

FEATHER: Well, that's a pretty strong statement. I think we'd better tell our listeners what the article is about.

PARKER: Well, Okay, let's tell our listeners. Let's tell them this way -- if they should like to read the article, it's published in Ebony Magazine under the name of Cab Calloway, the rest will speak for itself.

FEATHER: Well, ah, can I go into a few details anyway? Cab Calloway says in the article, or implies in the article, that narcotics are ruining the music business, and, oh, he makes it very clear that he thinks a large number of musicians are using narcotics, and that he goes into a great number of details about this thing, which we won't go into on the air, but, anyway, it's a very provocative article. Would you say that it represents the true picture of the situation?

PARKER: I'd rather say that it was poorly written, poorly expressed, and poorly meant. It was just poor.

FEATHER: Well, that makes it pretty definite. As a matter of fact, I'm inclined to agree with you, Charlie. I think the article was perhaps badly timed, and perhaps didn 't go into a careful enough examination of the real facts. As a matter of fact, it quoted something that I wrote several years ago about the same subject in Esquire, and it misquoted, or rather made an incomplete quote that gave a wrong picture of my feeling about the thing. I certainly don't think that a musician necessarily plays better under the influence of any stimulus of any kind, and I am pretty sure you agree with me, don't you?

PARKER: Well, um, yes, I'd rather agree with you to an extent. I think you are quoting something that I once said to you about this.

FEATHER: That's right, exactly. You said that to me quite a while ago.

PARKER: That's exactly right. Well, nobody's fooling themselves, never, anymore. Anyway, we'll put it that way, and in case an investigation should be conducted, it should be done in the right way instead of trying to destroy musicians and their names. I don't think it's quite a good idea.

FEATHER: Yeah, well, I think that maybe Cab is going to think twice about whether it was a good idea to have that article appear in...

PARKER: He has already expressed his thoughts.

FEATHER: He has? You mean in the magazine? Well, that's true.

PARKER: That's exactly right.

FEATHER: Well, that's true, but I haven't talked to him since the article came out, and I'd be very interested to hear what he has to say about the musicians' reaction to that article, because there's going to be a pretty violent reaction, just as yours is.

PARKER: Well, would you expect anything less?

FEATHER: No, as a matter of fact, you're right. I think it's bound to cause a lot of talk, and a lot of unfavorable talk, certainly. Well, Charlie, it's been very, very good talking about all these subjects with you, and before you go, I'd like to say that as soon as you have your plans set, please come up here and tell us all about it, tell us who your new manager is, and where your new bookings will be and, of course, as far as what your new records are, we'll be keeping in touch with that and reviewing them as they come along, and I know they'll be all A's and B's.

PARKER: All right, Leonard, thanks a lot.

Interviews courtesy of Miles Ahead: Charlie Parker Bibliography