The Great Works of Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker was an American music composer and jazz alto saxophone player. He had a major influence on the development of bebop and jazz music and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 for his contributions to music. He introduced new ideas and created new ways of playing the saxophone that included varying chords and playing rapid passing chords. Some of his greatest works are discussed here.

Ross Russell

Charlie Parker and Ross Russell, the founder of Dial Records

In 1946 Charlie Parker also decided to pair up with Ross Russell who was with the Dial Label. This led to Charlie Parker producing great collaborative work with many of the up and coming bebop musicians of the time, including JJ Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Ray Brown. The Dial Label allowed Charlie the freedom to improvise, be more inventive and creative, to great effect.

Charlie Parker’s nicknames were Bird and Yardbird, which explains the name of his one composition entitled “Ornithology” (ornithology means the study of birds). “Ornithology” was written by Benny Harris and Charlie Parker. This composition is, in fact, one of his most popular bebop tunes. It was recorded by the Charlie Parker Septet in 1946 with the Dial Label and was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1989.

Billie’s Bounce

Billie’s Bounce lyrics

An earlier work, “Billie’s Bounce”, was written by Charlie Parker in 1945 as a 12-bar F blues piece. The original recording by Charlie Parker was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000. Another 12-bar piece that he composed was called “Barbados”. This particular tune was set to a mambo rhythm and was first recorded in 1948. He was accompanied by Miles Davis on trumpet, Max Roach on drums, Curly Russell on bass and John Lewis on piano.

Anthropology

Another composition completed in 1945 was “Anthropology” which was written by Charlie Parker along with Dizzy Gillespie. “Anthropology” had the bebop style of jazz and used chords known as rhythm changes, which were actually 32-bar chord progressions.

“Yardbird Suite” was a bebop standard that was composed in 1946 by Charlie Parker. This music was named after Parker’s nickname and became extremely popular among fans of bebop music. There are three recordings of Charlie Parker playing this tune; two of these were recorded with the septet for Dial records. The last time it was recorded, it was released as a single.

Bird Gets the Worm

Charlie composed and released “Bird gets the Worm” in 1949. He placed a melody over the chords of a well-known tune. A compilation of Charlie Parker’s work was released in January 1995 by Verve Records. This work was entitled “Charlie Parker with Strings” which was based on work recorded back in 1950 within the context of strings rather than the usual bebop sound. The original work had already been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988. Even though Charlie Parker died in 1955, his work lives on. He received several posthumous Grammy Awards and is remembered today as one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.