Charlie Parker & Bebop Jazz

Charlie Parker & Bebop Jazz

Overview of Charlie Parker’s Life

Charlie “Bird” Parker was known as a … man by all his peers. He lived a tragically short life, mostly due to the drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and mental illness that plagued him for the majority of his life. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, took up alto saxophone at 13 and quit school at 14. He was inspired by the saxophonists Lester Young and Buster Smith.

Charlie Parker & Bebop Jazz

Charlie Parker was both a performer and composer of bebop. After hours music sessions with the Earl Hines Orchestra in Harlem is one of the major arenas in which alto saxophonist came to be immersed in the birth of bebop jazz. 

"I’d been getting bored with the stereotyped changes (harmonies) that were being used all the time.…I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes I could play the thing I’d been hearing. I came alive."

Characteristics of Bebop Jazz

Bebop’s faster speed and use of experimental improvisation led it to be less danceable and initially not as popular. But eventually it came to be known not as jazz as entertainment but as an intellectual art form. Born from swing jazz, in addition to its improvisation and fast pace bebop is also known for its complex harmonies and chord progression. The name ‘bebop’ comes from vocal scat singers. Bebop started in the 1940’s because World War II drafted many jazz musicians overseas, and so larger swing jazz bands became smaller groups with standout soloists. 



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