GXB15263 Charlie Parker by George Sottung © Wind River Studios

Alto saxophonist. Composer. Bandleader. Charlie Parker was a multi-talented musician regarded as a master of improvisational jazz as well as the father of “bebop.” In fact, his first recordings with another great performer — trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie — set the standard for jazz for nearly two decades. Parker’s interest in music began when he was just 11 years old. After teaching himself to play an alto saxophone given to him by his mother, Parker began to develop his unique musical style. In 1935, at the age of 15, he embarked on his quest to become a professional musician. Six years later Parker was playing in a big band. However, he was dissatisfied with swing music and soon made the acquaintance of Gillespie and other musicians who shared his discontent. Meeting at a club called Minton’s, they gradually began to craft a new style of music known as bebop. As its acknowledged leader, Parker breathed life into bebop with his own brand of improvisation. Sadly, Parker died in 1955 at the age of 35. However, 40 years after his passing, the music he developed during his 20-year career continues to influence new generations of jazz artists today. In fact, many colleges throughout America still teach Parker’s inimitable style of jazz.

Image and Text © Wind River Studios