Remembering Charlie 'Bird' Parker

August 29, 2016

Charles 'Charlie' Parker Jr

American jazz saxophonist and composer

also known as 'Yardbird' and 'Bird'

was born on August 29th of 1920

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and advanced harmonies.


Parker was a blazingly fast virtuoso, and he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.

His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber.

Parker acquired the nickname 'Yardbird' early in his career. This, and the shortened form 'Bird' and continued to be used for the rest of his life inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions such as "Yardbird Suite", "Ornithology", "Bird Gets the Worm", and "Bird of Paradise".


Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture

and later the Beat Generation,

personifying the jazz musician

as an uncompromising artist and intellectual

rather than just an entertainer.

Parker is known to have played several saxophones,

including the Conn 6M, the Martin Handicraft and Selmer Model 22.

He is also known to have performed with a King "Super 20" saxophone. Parker's King Super 20 saxophone was made specially for him in 1947.


Charlie 'Bird' Parker has collaborated with

Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Miles Davis

including Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian,

Curly Russell, and Kenny Clarke


Parker died on March 12, 1955, in the suite of his friend and patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City, while watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television.

The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack. The coroner who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker's 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age.


The Charlie Parker Memorial

Dedicated on March 27, 1999

Commissioned by the City of Kansas City, Missouri,

Public funds provided by the city

Private funds from the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation

Tony and Marti Oppenheimer

Charlie Parker Memorial

consists of a bronze head likeness of Charlie Parker

measuring 10 feet in height

mounted on 8 feet high base

Etched in letters are words “BIRD LIVES.”

The Memorial is installed

at the southeast corner of 17th Terrace

and the Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri



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