Charlie Parker at 100

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Charlie Parker (1920-1955), the American jazz saxophonist and composer.

Nicknamed “Bird,” Parker grew up in the thriving Kansas City jazz culture of the 1930s where all night sessions featured such musicians as Count Basie, Lester Young, and Mary Lou Williams. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he is credited with the birth of bebop, an uptempo style characterized by intense virtuosity, complex harmonic progressions, and improvisation. A victim of substance abuse and mental illness, Parker’s tragic death came at the age of 34.

The artistry of Charlie Parker changed the course of jazz. Miles Davis, who performed with Parker, is credited with saying, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Parker’s influence also extends beyond jazz. The composer and pioneer of minimalism Steve Reich cites the influence of Parker and his drummer, Kenny Clarke, who “had a sense of time that propelled the entire band, a buoyant, permanent uplift I found riveting and wanted to imitate and in many ways still do.” In his youth, the composer John Adams developed a fascination with bebop and wrote down Charlie Parker solos by dictation. Parker, in turn, listened to the music of twentieth century composers such as Béla Bartók. Indeed, you can hear a rhythmic kinship between Parker’s solos and works by Bartók, such as the Scherzo from the Fifth String Quartet.

In celebration of this important centennial, here are six of Charlie Parker’s most famous recordings:

Yardbird Suite

Miles Davis (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto sax), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Dodo Marmarosa (piano), Arvin Garrison (guitar), Vic McMillan (bass), Roy Porter (drums) Recorded in 1946


Miles Davis (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone), Dodo Marmarosa (piano), Arvin Garrison (guitar), Vic McMillan (bass,) Roy Porter (drums) Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California on March 28, 1946

Bird Of Paradise

Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), Tommy Potter (bass), Duke Jordan (piano), Max Roach (drums), Miles Davis (trumpet) Recorded in New York City on October 28, 1947

Bird Gets the Worm

Miles Davis (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), Duke Jordan (piano), Tommy Potter (bass) Recorded at United Sound Studios in Detroit, Michigan on December 21, 1947

Parker’s Mood

Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), John Lewis (piano), Curly Russell (bass), Max Roach (drums) Recorded at the Harry Smith Studios in New York City on September 18, 1948

Cool Blues

Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), Red Callender (bass), Harold “Doc” West (drums), Erroll Garner Recorded on February 9, 1947

Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.

-Charlie Parker


About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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