That Mouthpiece

From late 1949 to the end of his life Charlie Parker consistently played an unusual bronze metal saxophone mouthpiece marketed by the London branch of the Selmer Musical Instrument Company; mouthpiece historians call it the ‘Selmer London ff’ model.’ It was probably made by another company but stamped with the Selmer London name – something called a stencil in the musical marketing world. The main Selmer Company based in Paris had nothing to do with this peculiar model; it apparently was only made for a few years. What did it sound like? For an answer, listen to Bird’s incredible rich … Continue reading That Mouthpiece

A Breath of Fresh Air from 1954! or, Bird Gives You a Summer Listening List

In the early 1950s, a jazz disc jockey named Leigh Kamman had a show on WOV in New York City called, “The 1280 Club.” One day while on the air he called Charlie Parker at home for a surprise impromptu interview. The audio of this new interview surfaced on YouTube recently and what a treat it is to hear! Out of the blue, in this painful and difficult year 2020, we get a loud and clear message from Bird about an artist’s priorities . It’s critical to know how this interview fits into the context of Bird’s life. From 1952 … Continue reading A Breath of Fresh Air from 1954! or, Bird Gives You a Summer Listening List

Weekly Posting, May 1st, 2020

The following is the second half of Addie Parker’s remembrance, as told to Robert Reisner, with some reordering for clarity. The Gospel of Adeline, Part 2 Charles always thought he could make it in Kansas City, but after he and Rebecca disagreed he had to leave and went to Chicago for a while and from there to New York. He was in New York when he took those drugs..Charles’s father died when he was 17. We had been separated for years. Some lady stabbed him during a drunken quarrel. I got a hold of Charles and brought him home for … Continue reading Weekly Posting, May 1st, 2020

Weekly Posting, April 24th, 2020

For the next two weeks, I am going to step aside and let Addie Parker do all the talking. As hinted at last week, her jumbed remembrance after Bird’s death males a fascinating mini-biography. I had to rearrange her words to make her story more linear. It’s possible that she was in a state of mild dementia at the time she was interviewed, because she veers from topic to topic, constantly tangling up the timeline. This would make her a somewhat unreliable narrator, and there are discrepancies between her version of events and documented facts, although nothing serious. Due to … Continue reading Weekly Posting, April 24th, 2020

Weekly Posting, April 17th, 2020

On Thursday, April 20th, 1950, Addie Parker, graduated from the National Schools Institute of Practical Nursing in Kansas City. Charlie Parker (Bird) speaks of his mother’s achievement with pride in an interview recorded not long afterward, an excerpt of which is presented along with today’s musical offering. The circumstances are informal and Bird uses his natural speaking voice, setting aside the accent he affected for bandstand announcements and radio patter. Regrettably, the interviewers are squares of epic proportions who largely waste this invaluable opportunity. The following transcription of the excerpt in question gives some indication of the stilted atmosphere they … Continue reading Weekly Posting, April 17th, 2020

Weekly Posting, April 10th, 2020

Charlie Parker (Bird) must have been relieved to fly out of Los Angeles on April 4th, 1947, doubly so to be rid of Ross Russell. Russell provides many details about driving Bird and his future wife, Doris Sydnor, to the airport, and even about checking their luggage and watching them board the plane, but he gets their destination wrong. The flight was taking them to Chicago, not New York City. Bird had an Easter Sunday gig with trumpeter Howard McGhee on the 6th, at the Pershing Ballroom. McGhee reports that Bird made $750 for the night (1947 dollars) and the … Continue reading Weekly Posting, April 10th, 2020

Kevin Sun transcriptions of Charlie Parker solos

Keven Sun has posted two long articles on Bird at his website, A Horizontal Search. Charlie Parker on Confirmation 1949-51 is a fascinating story told through transcriptions, source recordings, and detailed commentary. Charlie Parker on Fine and Dandy 1947-1953 is a long good look – also with transcriptions, recordings and comments – at all extant recordings of Bird’s playing on that standard tune. As usual, Sun’s transcriptions are expertly laid out and very accurate. Dig in! Continue reading Kevin Sun transcriptions of Charlie Parker solos

George Russell’s arrangement of “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”

“The one entrée to the group was talent…people who later on were talented were welcomed. It didn’t last, but it was the prevailing feeling at the time, a feeling of great openness, you know. I don’t know what the cause of that was particularly, but, one thing, it was like Charlie Parker was the center of that. And I think it was his spirit, and generous spirit, that encouraged very much this community feeling around what was happening mainly because of him.” The time is May 1945, the place is New York City, and composer/drummer George Russell had just moved … Continue reading George Russell’s arrangement of “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”

Winners Announced in the 2020 Charlie Parker Song Contest Sponsored by the American Jazz Museum

Congrats to Kansas City pianists Roger Wilder and Andrew Ouellette, 1st and 2nd place winners in this year’s contest. A nice article from KCUR, the local Kansas City NPR affiliate, is here and it has links to their winning recordings. Check them out! Continue reading Winners Announced in the 2020 Charlie Parker Song Contest Sponsored by the American Jazz Museum