Betty Carter remembers Charlie Parker

“When I was with Lionel Hampton, we did a gig at the Strand Theater. Charlie Parker came in one day and he needed a fix so he asked Hamp if he would give him some money. Hamp said, “Charlie, if you sit in my reed section, I’ll give you fifty dollars.” Charlie Parker said, “Crazy.” So he sat in the section. There were five or six reeds in the section at the time. When Charlie Parker sat in the section, the whole band’s attitude changed. Everybody started to think. That is what I call really exerting an influence. You only have to appear and everybody starts thinking. Hamp started to stretch out. With this tune he was going to take a thinking solo. This is when Benny Bailey came down from the trumpet section, and you have never heard such trumpet playing in your life! Charlie Parker and Benny Bailey together at the Strand Theater in 1949. The influence that Charlie Parker had on Hamp and on everybody in the band was unbelievable. Hamp was really trying to breathe, pause and think: I’m not going that way. I’m going this way today because Charlie Parker is in the section. That’s what you call genius. Charlie Parker had that kind of influence on musicians.”

Betty Carter quoted in Notes and Tones by Art Taylor

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