Charles Parker Jnr. was born on this day (August 29th) 1920 in Kansas City, Kansas, the son of African-American parents. His father was a singer and dancer, who found himself stranded in Kansas when the vaudeville he was touring with ended. Charlie’s mother had married when she was seventeen and the family moved into Kansas City when Charlie was eight years old. Charlie Jnr. showed no early interest in music but as chance would have it, their new home was in the Black ghetto and close to the City’s night clubs and bars where jazz was the background music to all of the ‘entertainment’ that roaring Kansas City had to offer. Whether or not this was lucky for Charlie, it was certainly lucky for those who have a musical ear and are thus able to appreciate the music of a towering musical genius.
Parker, in his relatively brief adult years, never said much about his childhood or about his apprenticeship to the alto saxophone and so the formative years of this genius are little known, except we know he was a poor scholar and not an outstanding child musician. Parker’s time in Kansas City coincided with the era of Democrat Boss Pendergast and the city enjoyed a decade of good times that ended when Pendergast was convicted of massive fraud. By the end of this period of musical prosperity, the teenage Parker had secured a place in the band of Kansas City’s Jay McShann, one of the more musically progressive Black bandleaders of the day.
In 1939, as the music and entertainment scene in KC collapsed, Charlie left to follow his musical career and more or less severed his connection to the City and the area. Clearly, his graduation to the McShann Orchestra indicated some talent and achievement but there was no evidence that he was going to tower over Twentieth Century music in the same way as Frank Sinatra. Readers of this website unfamiliar with Parker’s music and with jazz might boggle at the pairing of the two performers, but I doubt that Sinatra, if he were still alive, would quibble, for he was well aware of Parker’s musical genius.
By the time he moved to New York in 1939, Parker, almost certainly had the character flaws and self-destructive appetites that would lead to his early death, but his reckless and rootless lifestyle seemed not to have prevented him from perfecting his mastery of the saxophone and acquiring a fund of musical knowledge. Some jazz writers have attributed Parker’s self-destruction to the racism that was prevalent in his lifetime but although racial prejudice must have closed many doors to him, as it did to all Blacks of his era, Parker does not seem to have been an embittered man. His music, in contrast to most of the music of today, including jazz, is notable for the full range of emotions, including sheer joy. From the beginning Parker was noted by those around him for his appetites – for food, for alcohol, for women, for sex and most lethally, for narcotics. Once in New York, Parker lived and loved on the fast track, and it led to his death, at the age of 34, on March 12th 1955.
Parker emerged as a jazz giant of the seemingly revolutionary bebop movement that erupted on New York’s 52nd Street in the late 1940’s and held sway until the early 1950’s. Bebop was the musical slang name given to the small-group jazz that turned its back on the Big Band era of the 1930’s and war years. Many of the bebop innovators had been making their living in the commercially successful big bands of Goodman, Basie, Ellington, Herman, Shaw and numerous less well-known names, but opportunities for improvisation and self-expression in those bands were few. Bebop was essentially all about improvisation and about liberating music from contemporary harmonic and rhythmic constraints, thus enabling music to become richer and more complex. A number of mostly Black musicians, when in New York, gravitated after hours to small night clubs on 52nd Street and experimented with new ideas. The end of the war also saw many musicians returning to civilian life and a general freeing up of night life. Parker, along with trumpeter ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, pianists ‘Bud’ Powell and Thelonius Monk and drummer Max Roach formed a nucleus of innovators, but many others, some never well-known, were active in the creation of, what seemed at the time, to be a new music.
In New York, and for a brief period on the West Coast, Parker’s personal life and health deteriorated as his musical genius flowered. By the late 1940’s bebop was captivating jazz musicians around the world, it was drawing large audiences and for a time Parker could command big pay checks. The money simply fed his overwhelming heroin habit and he was pursued everywhere by drug dealers. He was not an exception and heroin took the young lives of many of his very talented colleagues including Wardell Gray, Theodore ‘Fats’ Navarro, Hampton Hawes and Dick Twardzik.
Parker’s playing throughout the prosperous years was majestic and he frequently broadcast on radio. He recorded regularly too and was also captured on tape by dedicated followers so that there is a great legacy of his work. Parker towered above fellow musicians at a time when there were many great talents and his pre-eminence was recognized by them all. When English cricket was first televised I remember being astounded by the way that a few great cricketers like Cowdrey, Dexter and May were able to bat against fast bowlers as though they had all the time in the world. Their movements, as the ball hurtled towards them, were seemingly lazy and this was the mark of true class. Parker’s playing is similarly distinguished. Fast flurries of notes will suddenly be followed by grand statements that seem slowly paced until you try to play them yourself and find you are struggling to squeeze them in. His playing was always effortless and technically perfect, yet he never needed to use technique to cover an absence of melodic invention. Quoting from popular songs of his day and the past, it was clear that Parker had absorbed everything that was available. His recordings of ballads with an orchestra show that he was able to get inside every great tune and both do justice to it and improve it. Above all, Parker was able to include every emotional ingredient within one solo-drama, beauty, humor, excitement, sadness and tenderness. Little of all this reflected the realities of his life and so we can only speculate that God has gifted these emotions to even the unluckiest people.
Some critics have argued that Parker’s talents were on the wane well before his death and that new trends in jazz were leaving him behind. I suppose the logic of this thinking is that he was lucky to die when he did for otherwise he would have been musically stranded. I can find no evidence of any musical deterioration in his last recordings. On the contrary, although his commercial opportunities were long gone, his playing is as majestic and rich in content as ever. In the end, he played wherever he could, often with very average musicians, yet his own playing leaps out with a vitality that lifts those around him. This brings me to the message of this website, for the idea that genius or even moderate artistic talent can become ‘out of date’ is surely the great deceit of the now-dominant Media Class. This Class would have us believe that newness, cutting edge art, fashion, rejection of the standards of the past, disposability and tomorrow’s new thing are all that counts. For this new Class and its Leftist followers, a bottle of urine with a picture of Christ in it is a more relevant artistic statement than a crucifixion painting by a Master of the past.
On this website we argue that artistic merit is unrelated to time and that high standards are high standards and timeless. Novelty, fashion and the revolutionary rejection of past wisdoms are not symbols of progress but of decadence. Whether we are considering music or marriage, entertainment or literature, sex or manners, we should not abandon the wisdom and standards that have accumulated over centuries, nor embrace shallow fashion and ideas that demand rejection of our past.
Charlie Parker was a genius who was able to express the greatest human emotions through musical improvisation. The core of his music can be detached from the bebop mannerisms of the time and it remains awesomely grand. It stands in stark contrast to the whining and angry trash that the Media Class now promotes as it leads the masses into an era of decadence.
The death of Ted Kennedy is giving the Media Class another opportunity to rewrite history and ramp up its propaganda. This dissolute man was a hypocrite throughout his life and his public career should have ended on the night that his drunkenness took the life of a female companion. Kennedy however found a way to bury his past and it entailed using the Kennedy name to promote the very Leftist agenda of the emerging Media Class. By adopting a Leftist stance on abortion, immigration, welfare, health, US foreign policy and homosexuality Kennedy became the darling of the Media Class which in return ensured his many character deficiencies never made it into the news. I recommend today’s little article on the BNP website as an antidote to the Mainstream Media’s slobbering over Kennedy. Interestingly, the MSM is using his death to focus on Obama as his friend and mentor. The Media Class has no use for Kennedy now and so his death is an opportunity to promote Obama. He is their man!
In the UK today, the revolutionary ‘environmentalists’ are embarking on another anti-capitalist stunt. How the Left loves stunts! This time they are erecting a camp on Blackheath in South East London and some thousand assorted welfare scroungers, druggies, lesbians, Trotskyists, publicity seekers, ‘students’ and aging health food eccentrics have begun to put up tents. The Leftist BBC is busy publicizing the event with dates, times, directions and approving descriptions and also inviting participants to email their experiences to the BBC for publication. The Metropolitan police have issued the following statements. “We are on our way there making sure the site is secure and people can access easily. We are standing off and allowing people to set up camp.”
As it happens, the camp, which the organizers hope will attract 5,000 protesters, is only a short distance from Blackheath village and is overlooked by some 50 houses. It seems that there is no concern for the peace and quiet of the residents, unlike the police concerns for the residents near the farm which hosted the BNP Family Festival. Nor are the authorities putting severe restrictions on camping, as they did in Derbyshire. All this shows the stark contrast between the way the authorities and the Media treat Leftists and Nationalists. The climate protesters will be ‘fighting’ man-made global warming and capitalism at the end of a dismal British summer but this irony will be ignored by the Media. Here in mid California the weather continues to max at lower temperatures than forecast each and every day. I am not complaining about the cooler weather for it is very pleasant, but surely global warming should be global and not absent in the US, the UK and Canada?