Happy Bird Day To You

Here it is Charlie Parker’s 94th birthday, and I’m just getting around to observing it. The photograph captures Bird in a moment of happiness. Such moments came fairly often in his troubled life, more frequently when he was at work than when he was pursuing, or pursued by, his problems.




Charlie Parker smiling right

So, let’s listen to him at work. First, one of his magical transformations of George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” This is Take 2 of the tune from his Dial session of October 28, 1947. His quintet has Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach.

Of the dozens of blues Parker recorded, the Rifftides staff was unanimous in its vote for “KC Blues” from his Clef date of January 17, 1951. Davis and Roach are again present, with Walter Bishop, piano; and Teddy Kotick, bass. If you have heard this more than once before, you may be able to sing along with Bird’s solo. As melodic as something by Schubert, Chopin or Debussy, it is likely to find a home in your mind.

Charlie Parker, 1920-1955. Thank you.

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  1. valerie bishop says

    Thank you, Doug, for providing a lovely tribute to “Bird” and an opportunity for me to hear my ex-husband on piano years before I met him!

  2. Don Conner says

    Bird’s playing was so clear and lyrical that it is easy to sing or, in my case, scat along with him. Nice to hear Duke Jordan, a sometimes forgotten force.