Charlie Parker

This new year, how about some new music? Music that maybe you've told yourself you really don't like — like opera, hip-hop or country. This month, we're bringing in some people to help you mix up your playlists. First up, we asked NPR's senior arts editor, Tom Cole, on how to get into jazz.


On the power of deep listening

Wikpedia/U.S. Library of Congress Music Division/ Wiliam R. Gottlieb

Some folks—even jazz fans—wouldn’t know that 'Robert Chudnick' was the real name of the musician whose handle was Red Rodney.  The once well-known jazz trumpeter from Philadelphia was born back on September 27th, 1927.

August 31, 2020. Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” August 29th, 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the latter’s birth, and alto saxophonists Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, and Gary Bartz got a head start on celebrating earlier this year with Bird at 100—a worthy tribute to the man of insatiable appetites who became a God-like figure to the Beat generation and redefined jazz to mean the highest form of musical improvisation.

Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature. Like Louis Armstrong before him and just a few others since, he redrew the possibilities of the art form, and he did it with absolute panache.

August 24, 2020. Champian Fulton’s first paid gig was playing Clark Terry’s 75th birthday party. She was 10 years old. Now, at 35, the pianist and vocalist is more than just precocious and well-connected; she’s ambitious, too—averaging nearly one new release every year since her 2007 debut. But her latest, Birdsong, released to coincide with Charlie Parker’s centennial, might be her loosest and most joyful recording to date.

Have you ever discovered that a famous person once lived very close to you?  And all the while, you weren't aware of it—until that person moved away, and the world let you know about the celebrity who had been in your midst. WRTI's Bob Perkins remembers when jazz great Charlie Parker lived in Philadelphia for a time. 

Charlie "Yardbird" Parker's music is a mainstay on WRTI, so obviously our jazz hosts get to hear a lot of his music ona regular basis. We've asked them to weigh in on their favorite songs from Bird, or favorite interpretation of his music from another artist. Here's what they had to say.

Wikipedia Commons, William P. Gottlieb

Charlie "Bird" Parker was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. In his brief life, Parker created a new sound on the alto saxophone and spearheaded a revolution in harmony and improvisation that pushed popular music from the swing era to bebop and modern jazz.

The great alto saxophonist and jazz icon Charlie "Yardbird" Parker was only 34 years old when he died in 1955. During his short life, he became one of the most influential improvising soloists in jazz. As we celebrate Bird's 100th birthday week on WRTI starting on August 24th, Jazz Host Bob Perkins talks with Susan Lewis about why he's always been in sync with the music of Charlie Parker.

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