Cultural Percussionist

Charlie Parker Day

Charles Parker Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), also known as Yardbird and Bird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebopa 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 on the road with Jay McShann. This, and the shortened form “Bird”, 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.

Charles Parker Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kansas at 852 Freeman Avenue, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri near Westport and later – in high school – near 15th and Olive Street. He was the only child of Charles Parker and Adelaide “Addie” (Bailey), who was of mixed Choctaw and African American background. He attended Lincoln High School in September 1934, but withdrew in December 1935, just before joining the local musicians’ union and to pursue his musical career full time His childhood sweetheart and future wife, Rebecca Ruffin, graduated from Lincoln High School in June 1935.

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