American Masters

FULL EPISODE

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker

At age eleven, he had just begun to play the saxophone. At age twenty he was leading a revolution in modern jazz music. At thirty-four, he was dead from years of drug and alcohol use. Today, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker is considered one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century. We're bringing this film back to celebrate what would have been Charlie's 100th birthday in August 2020.

AIRED: August 17, 1989 | 0:58:32
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

Man: WHEN I FIRST HEARD CHARLIE PARKER

IT WAS SIMILAR TO A LASER.

(Parker playing "Hot House" )

CAPTIONING OF THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING

AND PUBLIC TELEVISION STATIONS.

AMERICAN MASTERS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY A MAJOR GRANT FROM:

WITH ADDITIONAL FUNDING FROM:

ADDITIONAL FUNDING IS PROVIDED BY:

SALUTING THE SPIRIT AND ACHIEVEMENT OF AMERICAN MASTERS.

(applause )

Emcee: THE BIRD, CHARLIE PARKER.

CHARLIE?

CHARLIE, WELCOME BACK.

IT'S NICE HAVING YOU WITH US.

Parker: HELLO, IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK.

(Parker playing "Ballade" )

Man: THERE'S ONE THING THAT HE WANTED TO DO.

HE DIDN'T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE

AS LONG AS HE COULD PLAY THAT HORN.

HE LOVED THAT HORN, THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

HE PROBABLY LOVED SOME OTHER THINGS THAT HE DID AS WELL.

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

BUT HE WANTED TO PLAY THAT HORN.

Woman: HE HAD A VERY MAGNETIC PERSONALITY.

HE WAS IRRESISTIBLE.

AND HE HAD A PRESENCE.

WHEN HE WALKED IN A ROOM

IT WASN'T LIKE AN ORDINARY MAN WALKING INTO A ROOM.

I'VE NEVER KNOWN A MAN--

I DIDN'T KNOW A MAN THEN AND I HAVEN'T MET A MAN SINCE

THAT ATTRACTED PEOPLE TO HIM THE WAY BIRD DID.

(Parker playing "Ballade" )

Man: WHEN I FIRST HEARD CHARLIE PARKER

IT WAS SIMILAR TO A LASER.

HE IMPRESSED ME MORE THAN ANYBODY TO THAT POINT.

CHARLIE PARKER HAD A NEW APPROACH

TO PLAYING MUSIC.

WE HAD THE MUSIC.

BUT WE DIDN'T HAVE THE--

SHALL I SAY "PYROTECHNICS."

(jazz band playing "Kim" )

(band playing "Kim" )

(jazz band playing "Ruff Scuffling" )

Woman: IT WAS IN THE YEAR 1934, IN APRIL

THAT MY FAMILY, SIX CHILDREN AND MY MOTHER

MOVED INTO THE PARKERS' HOUSE.

THAT'S WHEN I FIRST MET CHARLIE.

WE LIVED UPSTAIRS.

AND HE WAS STANDING BY THE BANISTER

WITH KNICKERS ON-- I REMEMBER THE KNICKERS--

AND LOOKING AT ALL OF US GO UP THE STEPS.

AND HIS MOTHER WAS THERE.

AND THAT'S WHEN WE CONNECTED, CHARLIE AND I.

Ross: THE HOME REBECCA RUFFIN AND HER FAMILY MOVED INTO

WAS A BIG FRAME HOUSE ON OLIVE STREET

IN A BLACK SECTION OF KANSAS CITY.

THE 14-YEAR-OLD BOY AT THE BANISTER THAT DAY

WOULD BECOME ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL FIGURES

IN 20th-CENTURY MUSIC.

CHARLES PARKER, JR., WAS BORN AUGUST 29, 1920

IN KANSAS CITY, KANSAS.

HIS FATHER, A PULLMAN CHEF AND EX-VAUDEVILLE HOOFER, LEFT HOME

WHEN CHARLIE WAS A BOY, TAKING CHARLIE'S HALF-BROTHER, JOHN.

SHORTLY AFTERWARDS, HIS MOTHER, ADDIE

MOVED THE BOY ACROSS THE RIVER TO KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI.

A DEVOTED, HARD-WORKING WOMAN, PART NEGRO, PART CHOCTAW INDIAN

ADDIE TOOK IN THE RUFFINS AS BOARDERS.

THEY STAYED UNTIL MRS. RUFFIN SAW

HOW MUCH ATTENTION CHARLIE WAS PAYING HER DAUGHTER.

WELL, WE HAD BEEN GOING TOGETHER

AND SOMEHOW, MAMA, AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL--

MY MOTHER SAW THAT WE WERE GETTING VERY CLOSE

SO WE MOVED, IN THE YEAR '36.

I THINK IT WAS MARCH

BUT LATER ON, MY OLDER SISTER--

SHE HELPED ME TO GET OUT TO SEE CHARLIE

AND HE WAS PLAYING WITH LAWRENCE KEYES

AT THE PASEO HALL DANCE BANDS

SO WE-- SHE HELPED ME TO GET OUT TO SEE HIM

AND THE NIGHT OF JOE LOUIS'S FIGHT, HIS FIRST FIGHT

WE WERE SITTING ON THE ATTUCKS SCHOOL STEPS

AND I WAS ABOUT TO GO, AND HE ASKED ME, HE SAYS

"YOU KNOW, REBECCA

"IF MRS. RUFFIN KNEW WE WERE SEEING EACH OTHER

"SHE WOULD KILL YOU.

LET'S GET MARRIED."

I SAID, "OKAY."

(giggles )

WE WENT DOWN TO THE COURTHOUSE

AND DURING THE CEREMONY, CHARLIE DIDN'T HAVE ANY RINGS OR NOTHING

SO MRS. PARKER TOOK HER RINGS OFF

AND HE PLACED THEM ON MY FINGER.

THAT WAS IT.

Ross: WHEN CHARLIE ASKED FOR AN ALTO SAX AT 12

THERE WAS LITTLE REASON TO THINK ANYTHING OF IT.

THE MUSIC CONSERVATORIES IN KANSAS CITY EXCLUDED BLACKS

AND HIS MOTHER COULD NOT HAVE AFFORDED THE TUITION

BUT NOTHING COULD DISPEL CHARLIE'S OBSESSION

WITH THE ALTO SAXOPHONE OR WITH JAZZ.

Man: KANSAS CITY WAS OPEN, THEN, AND IT WAS JUMPING.

WELL, JOE TURNER WAS WAILING.

YOU COULD WALK OUT OF THERE.

YOU COULD SHOOT YOU SOME CRAPS, YOU KNOW, MAKE DOUGH--

THE NEXT ROOM, OR WHATEVER.

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

THE TOWN WAS MOVING.

SEE, ALL THE CATS IS THERE, AND ALL THE BABES ARE THERE

AND ALL THE GAMBLERS AND PIMPS.

WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.

THAT MEANS MUSICIANS ARE COMING THERE, TOO.

SO YOU GOT A WHOLE MIXTURE GOING ON ALL THE TIME

AND IT NEVER DID STOP, 24 HOURS A DAY.

(Parker playing "Yardbird Suite" )

Ross: CHARLIE PLAYED IN THE HIGH SCHOOL BAND

AND AT DANCE HALLS.

HE PRACTICED CONSTANTLY.

WHEN HE WENT TO THE MOVIES

HE TRIED TO FIGURE OUT HOW THE SCORES WERE WRITTEN.

HE MEMORIZED THE SOLOS ON RECORDS

AND HAUNTED THE DOWNTOWN CLUBS

STANDING IN DOORWAYS TO HEAR THE MASTERS.

("Yardbird Suite" continues )

Ross: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, THE GENIUS WHO FIRST DEMONSTRATED

HOW EXPRESSIVE AND VITAL A MUSIC JAZZ COULD BE

WAS, IN THE ERA BEFORE CHARLIE PARKER

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL OF ITS VIRTUOSO STYLISTS.

McShann: HE ALWAYS SAID LOUIS WAS A MASTER, YOU KNOW.

LOUIS COULD TAKE ANYTHING AND DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

AND THAT'S WHAT HE ALWAYS LOVED ABOUT LOUIS.

Ross: CHARLIE ABSORBED THE LESSONS OF MANY MUSICIANS.

ONE OF HIS FAVORITE RECORDS

WAS FLETCHER HENDERSON'S "STEALING APPLES"

FEATURING THE TENOR SAXOPHONIST LEON "CHU" BERRY.

CHARLIE WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH BERRY'S AUTHORITATIVE SOUND

THAT HE NAMED HIS SON AFTER HIM.

CHARLIE WAS ONLY 18 THEN, BUT HE SEEMED OLDER.

THE ALTO SAX WAS DOMINATED BY BENNY CARTER AND JOHNNY HODGES.

HE FOUND A HOMETOWN MASTER

WHO TOOK HIM UNDER HIS WING-- BUSTER SMITH.

McShann: BIRD WORKED WITH BUSTER, YOU KNOW.

HE WORKED WITH BUSTER'S GROUP, AND REALLY, THAT WAS BIRD'S MAN.

BIRD--

I HEARD A BROADCAST ONE NIGHT

DURING THE TIME THAT BIRD WAS WORKING WITH PROF.

SO I SAID, "PROF, YOU SURE DID SOUND GOOD LAST NIGHT."

HE SAYS, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, SOUND GOOD LAST NIGHT?

"I DIDN'T PLAY;

"SHE DIDN'T COME UP ON THAT BREAD, AND I QUIT.

THAT WAS CHARLIE PARKER YOU HEARD."

I SAID, "WHAT?"

IT SOUNDED JUST LIKE--

IT SOUNDED SO MUCH LIKE THE PROF, YOU KNOW--

WE CALLED BUSTER SMITH "PROF."

BIRD ADMIRED MANY OTHER ALTO PLAYERS--

PEOPLE YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT LIKE JIMMY DORSEY

AND JOHNNY HODGES, WHICH YOU DID EXPECT.

HE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT JIMMY DORSEY

AND HE ALWAYS MENTIONED CERTAIN THINGS THAT JIMMY DORSEY PLAYED.

AND HE WOULD DO THIS WHEN HE WOULD...

HE MIGHT BE SWINGING LIKE CRAZY

AND HE'D GOING INTO JIMMY DORSEY'S THEME SONG.

AND IT STILL SWUNG.

(playing "Beebe" )

Ross: STILL, CHARLIE SEEMED LESS RESPONSIVE TO THE OTHER ALTOISTS

THAN TO THE MAJOR INNOVATORS OF TENOR SAX

ALL OF WHOM APPEARED IN THE KANSAS CITY AREA.

IT WAS BEN WEBSTER WHO LATER OFFERED HIM A JOB IN NEW YORK.

(playing "Fine and Mellow" )

(playing "Fine and Mellow" )

THE ALREADY-LEGENDARY COLEMAN HAWKINS...

(playing "Fine and Mellow" )

AND ESPECIALLY, THE STAR OF THE COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA

LESTER YOUNG.

McShann: OH, HE LOVED LESTER.

NO QUESTION HE HAD A GREAT IMPACT ON THE BIRD

BECAUSE WE WOULD SET OUR BREAKS

WHEN WE FOUND OUT THAT BASIE WAS GOING TO BROADCAST.

WE'D SET OUR BREAKS ALONG WITH THE BROADCAST.

THEN WE'D RUN OUT IN THE CAR AND LISTEN TO THE BROADCAST

AND HE DEFINITELY WANTED TO HEAR LESTER.

THAT WAS HIS MAIN PURPOSE, BIRD.

(playing "Air Mail Special" )

WELL, YOU START SPEAKING OF BASIE, YOU SEE, THAT'S--

THAT'S JUST PUTTING BIRD RIGHT ON AT HOME

BECAUSE, SEE, BIRD LOVES THAT BASIE SOUND, YOU KNOW

AND THEN, BIRD LOVED SWING, SEE

BECAUSE HE LOVED TO PAT HIS FOOT.

HE LOVED TO SEE PEOPLE PATTING THEIR FOOT.

HE LOVED TO SEE PEOPLE MOVING.

Ross: CHARLIE TOOK FREQUENT JOBS IN THE OZARKS, 150 MILES AWAY.

ON THANKSGIVING OF 1936

THE BAND'S SPEEDING CAR SKIDDED ON ICE AND OVERTURNED.

ONE MAN WAS KILLED.

CHARLIE BROKE THREE RIBS AND FRACTURED HIS SPINE.

AFTER HE RECOVERED, REBECCA NOTICED CHANGES.

Parker Davis: ABOUT JULY OF '37 HE CALLED ME UPSTAIRS.

HE SAYS, "GO SIT AROUND THAT SIDE OF THE BED."

I THOUGHT HE HAD SOMETHING FOR ME.

I LOOKED IN THE MIRROR

AND I SAW HIM STICK THIS NEEDLE IN HIS ARM

AND I SCREAMED AND I GOT UP AND I SAID, "WHY?"

HE JUST SMILED AND HE TOOK... HIS TIE WAS THE TOURNIQUET.

AND I WAS WATCHING.

THEN IT CAME INTO MY MIND THAT ON THE DRESSER

I'D SEEN SO MANY OTHER TIES IN SMALL TIES.

THAT WAS ALL, HE DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING.

HE JUST WIPED HIS ARM, PUT THE TIE AROUND HIS COLLAR

PUT HIS JACKET ON AND KISSED ME ON THE FOREHEAD

AND HE SAYS, "SEE YOU IN THE MORNING."

Ross: JAY McSHANN ARRIVED IN KANSAS CITY BROKE

BUT DETERMINED TO ORGANIZE A BAND.

BY 1939, HE HAD RECRUITED THE CITY'S BEST YOUNG MUSICIANS

FOR AN ORCHESTRA WITH A PENCHANT FOR THE BLUES.

CHARLIE WAS A MAJOR ASSET AS A DAZZLING SOLOIST

AND AN ABLE SECTION MAN.

WHILE TRAVELING WITH McSHANN

CHARLIE ACQUIRED A PERMANENT NICKNAME.

WELL, WE USED TO GO UP THERE

AND PLAY A LOT OF THE FRATERNITIES

YOU KNOW, SORORITIES IN LINCOLN

AND THIS PARTICULAR DAY WE WENT UP

WE WERE DRIVING UP, WE HAD AUTOMOBILES--

I THINK WE HAD ABOUT THREE OR FOUR CARS.

AND THE CAR THAT BIRD WAS RIDING IN...

YOU KNOW HOW DRIVING ALONG WITH THE HIGHWAY

IT'S A TWO-LANE, ONE GOING AND ONE COMING.

YOU PASSED THROUGH THESE LITTLE SETTLEMENTS

THE FARMERS' CHICKENS WOULD RUN ALL OUT ON THE HIGHWAY

OR OUTSIDE OF THE CAR.

SO THEY HIT ONE OF THE CHICKENS, AND BIRD SAID

"DID YOU KNOW YOU HIT THAT YARDBIRD BACK THERE?"

THE DRIVER SAYS, "WHAT ABOUT IT?"

HE SAYS, "MAN, STOP THIS CAR AND BACK UP.

LET'S PICK UP THE YARDBIRD."

SO THEY DID.

THEY PICKED UP THE YARDBIRD AND BIRD TOOK IT INTO LINCOLN.

DURING THOSE TIMES, WE STAYED AT PEOPLE'S HOUSES.

THE LADY'S HOUSE WHERE HE STAYED

HE TOOK IT IN AND ASKED HER

"MISS, WE HIT THIS YARDBIRD COMING UP HERE.

WOULD YOU COOK IT FOR ME?"

SHE SAYS, "SURE."

SO BIRD HAD HIM A FEAST.

Ross: MUSICIANS NOW CALLED HIM "YARDBIRD" OR "YARD" OR "BIRD."

THE NAME SEEMED TO ACT AS AN IMPETUS.

(Parker playing "Oh, Lady Be Good" )

LIVING ON THE ROAD, HE HAD LITTLE TIME FOR HIS FAMILY

AND KANSAS CITY WAS NO LONGER A HOTBED FOR MUSIC.

HE YEARNED TO FLEE THE MIDWEST AND MAKE HIS NAME IN NEW YORK.

HIS DEPARTURE WAS INEVITABLE.

Parker Davis: HE CAME TO ME

HE SAYS, "I'D LIKE TO HAVE A TALK WITH YOU, REBEC."

SO WE WENT INTO THE DINING ROOM

AND WE BOTH SIT THERE AND HE HELD MY HAND

AND HE SAYS, "REBEC, WOULD YOU FREE ME, PLEASE?"

AND I JUST LOOKED AT HIM.

HE SAYS, "I BELIEVE I COULD BECOME A GREAT MUSICIAN

IF I WERE FREE."

I NEVER SAID A WORD.

IT WAS JUST SOMETHING, YOU KNOW.

SO HE CALLED HIS MOTHER

HE SAYS, "MA, WOULD YOU COME IN HERE, PLEASE?"

AND SHE SAID, "WHAT IS IT, CHARLIE?"

AND HE SAYS, "REBEC IS GOING TO FREE ME

"AND I WANT YOU TO MAKE A PROMISE TO ME

"THAT FOR AS LONG AS SHE AND LEON LIVE

"THEY'LL HAVE A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS

FOOD IN THEIR MOUTHS."

AND THAT'S ALL.

HE WOULD NEVER BE BACK.

Ross: CHARLIE PAWNED HIS HORN

STOLE A RIDE ON A FREIGHT TRAIN BOUND FOR CHICAGO

AND MADE HIS WAY TO NEW YORK.

McShann: BIRD WAS IN A HURRY TO GET TO NEW YORK.

HE LOVED NEW YORK.

HE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT WANTING TO GET BACK TO NEW YORK.

DURING THE TIME WHEN WE HAD THE SMALL BAND

HE LEFT THE BAND FOR ABOUT A YEAR AND CAME TO NEW YORK.

WHEN HE CAME BACK, HE TOLD HOW HE STOOD ON THE CORNER

AND LOOKED UP AT THE SIGN THAT SAID "SAVOY BALLROOM"

AND LOOKED AND LOOKED

AND HE SAID HE JUST STOOD THERE AND DREAMED.

Ross: THERE WAS LITTLE WORK FOR AN UNKNOWN MUSICIAN

BUT CHARLIE WASHED DISHES FOR THREE MONTHS AT $9 A WEEK

JUST TO HEAR THE AWESOME PIANIST AT JIMMY'S CHICKEN SHACK

ART TATUM.

(playing "Tiny's Tempo" )

IN 1941, CHARLIE PLAYED THE SAVOY BALLROOM

WITH JAY McSHANN'S BAND.

THEY WERE A HIT.

CHARLIE'S MUSIC DISPLAYED A FIERCE ORIGINALITY.

HIS SOLOS ON "CHEROKEE" AMAZED MUSICIANS.

SOME OF THEM, INCLUDING DIZZY GILLESPIE

HAD FORMED A CLIQUE IN THE EARL HINES BAND

AND THEY ENCOURAGED HINES TO HIRE BIRD.

SO EARL HINES TOLD ME

"LOOK, MAC, IF BIRD OWE YOU ANY MONEY, LET ME KNOW

BECAUSE I GOT THE MONEY TO PAY YOU."

HE SAYS, "NOW, I WANT HIM.

I'M GOING TO GET HIM BECAUSE I GOT THE MONEY TO GET HIM."

I SAYS, "WELL, OKAY-- HE OWES ME SO-AND-SO

AND SO-AND-SO AND SO-AND-SO."

SO EARL PAID ME OFF.

AND HE SAYS, "CAN HE GO NOW?"

I SAYS, "YES."

SO BIRD WENT ON WITH HINES' BAND.

SO HE WAS OVER AT HINES' BAND, SO I DIDN'T SEE THE CATS

HINES OR BIRD, NONE OF THEM, FOR ABOUT 3½ OR FOUR MONTHS.

WHEN I SAW THEM AGAIN, WE WERE AT KELLY STABLES ON 52nd STREET.

EARL HINES COME UP TO ME, HE SAYS, "LISTEN, COME BACK."

HE SAYS, "COME GET THIS CHARLIE PARKER

"BECAUSE THAT IS THE WORST GUY IN THE WORLD."

I SAID, "BUT YOU TOLD ME

YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE A MAN OUT OF HIM."

HE SAID, "NO, LOOK, HE OWES EVERYBODY IN TOWN

OWES EVERYBODY IN THE BAND, AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE HORN IS."

I REALLY WAS IMPRESSED BY THE EARL HINES ORCHESTRA

ON AN OPENING NIGHT AT THE APOLLO THEATRES.

SARAH VAUGHAN, WHO HAD JUST JOINED THEM--

IT WAS HER FIRST PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE--

SANG "BODY AND SOUL."

I WROTE ABOUT IT IN THEMETRONOME.

THAT WAS WHEN THE BEBOPPERS WERE BEGINNING

TO INFILTRATE THE BAND.

Man: NEW YORK IS THE PLACE

AND BOTH OF US BLOSSOMED AFTER MEETING.

AND THEN IT WAS PERSONIFIED BY THE IDEA

THAT I WENT WITH EARL HINES THE SAME TIME HE DID.

OF COURSE, HE WAS PLAYING TENOR AT THAT TIME

BUT HIS MUSIC WAS STILL THE SAME.

SO WE GOT TOGETHER THERE

AND WE PLAYED WITH BILLY ECKSTINE.

♪ I LOVE THE RHYTHM IN THE RIFF ♪

♪ WHEN THE MUSIC JUMPS I CAN LIFT ♪

(scat singing )

♪ ANYTHING TO MAKE IT SWING ♪

♪ I LOVE THE MUTED TRUMPET TONES ♪

♪ BLENDED WITH A MELLOW SAXOPHONE ♪

(scat singing )

♪ WHAT A LOT OF KICKS IT BRINGS ♪

♪ WHEN THAT RHYTHM'S IN YOU, THE BLUES DON'T HAVE A CHANCE ♪

♪ FIND THAT GROOVE'LL WIN YOU-- ♪

♪ MAKE YOU NEVER THINK ABOUT ROMANCE ♪

♪ JUMP, JUMP YOUR RHYTHM WITH THE RIFF ♪

♪ ANY KIND OF MUSIC IS A LIFT ♪

(scat singing )

♪ ANYTHING TO MAKE IT SWING. ♪

BILLY ECKSTINE WAS ONE OF THE BEST BAND LEADERS

PROBABLY THE BEST THAT I HAD TO WORK FOR.

HE UNDERSTOOD THE MUSIC.

HE WAS A SUPPORTER OF THE MUSIC...

A SUPPORTER OF YOUR INVENTING.

HE WAS JUST A BEAUTIFUL MAN.

(saxophone solo )

(drum solo )

(scat singing )

♪ RIFFING IS THE THING FOR ME.

Ross: PARKER'S APPRENTICESHIP WITH HINES AND ECKSTINE

WAS NOT RECORDED BECAUSE OF A RECORDING STRIKE.

YET DURING THAT TIME

THE SEEDS OF MODERN JAZZ OR BEBOP, BLOSSOMED.

JAM SESSIONS AT A HARLEM CLUB CALLED MINTON'S

ENCOURAGED AN APPETITE FOR NEW HARMONIES AND RHYTHMS.

THE HOUSE BAND INCLUDED

TWO MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO MODERN JAZZ--

THE PIANIST AND COMPOSER THELONIOUS MONK WAS CELEBRATED

FOR HIS TOTAL ORIGINALITY AND SUBTLE HUMOR.

(playing "Blue Monk" )

Ross: THE DRUMMER KENNY CLARKE

CREATED SURPRISING RHYTHMIC ACCENTS THAT WERE OFTEN CITED

AS THE ORIGIN OF THE RHYTHMIC WORD "BEBOP."

(drum and saxophone solo lines )

Ross: BY 1945, A GENERATION OF MODERNISTS WAS IN PLACE

INCLUDING THREE OF PARKER'S MOST STEADFAST COLLABORATORS:

DRUMMER MAX ROACH

FAMED FOR HIS GLITTERING TOUCH AND MELODIC SOLOS...

(playing drum solo )

PIANIST BUD POWELL, THE VIRTUOSO WHO PLUMBED

THE DEEPEST WELLSPRINGS OF EMOTION;

AND TRUMPETER MILES DAVIS, THE MOST LYRICAL OF THE MODERNISTS

AND A MAJOR INNOVATOR IN HIS OWN RIGHT.

THE NUCLEUS FOR JAZZ IN NEW YORK WAS NOT HARLEM, BUT 52nd STREET

WHERE A BLOCK-LONG BAZAAR OF NIGHTCLUBS

OFFERED AN EXTRAVAGANT BANQUET OF TALENT.

THERE WAS MUCH RESISTANCE TO THE NEW JAZZ

BUT WHEN PARKER AND GILLESPIE OPENED

AT THE THREE DEUCES IN 1945, THE KINETIC ENSEMBLE THEMES

AND FLARING SOLOS SEEMED TO SPEAK OUT

FOR A GENERATION THAT HAD JUST LIVED

THROUGH THE MOST BARBARIC WAR IN HISTORY.

(Parker playing "Shaw Nuff" )

Gillespie: IT WAS A CLUB HERE, CLUB HERE, CLUB HERE

AND THEN THE WHITE ROSE HERE

AND A COUPLE CLUBS UP HERE ON 52nd STREET.

SO BETWEEN SETS, WE'D...

IT WOULD BE A BIG DEAL.

EVERYBODY'S GOING DIFFERENT PLACES

TO HEAR OTHER GUYS THAT WERE ON THE STREET AT THAT TIME.

IT WAS A STRANGE MIXTURE.

YOU HAD JIMMY RYAN'S WHERE ALL THE DIXIELANDERS WENT

AND ACROSS THE STREET YOU MIGHT HAVE JACK TEAGARDEN

ART TATUM IN ANOTHER PLACE, BILLIE HOLIDAY, COLEMAN HAWKINS.

THERE WAS ALSO THE WHITE ROSE BAR

WHICH WAS ON THE CORNER OF 52nd AND SIXTH AVENUE

WHERE YOU WOULD GO BETWEEN SETS TO MEET OTHER MUSICIANS.

ONE NIGHT, BEN WEBSTER WAS TELLING ME

ABOUT THIS FANTASTIC ALTO PLAYER.

I THINK IT WAS THE FIRST TIME

I WAS INTRODUCED TO CHARLIE PARKER.

(Parker playing "Au Privave" )

Woman: I HEARD ABOUT BIRD BEFORE I HEARD HIM.

THERE WAS A BAND-- I BELIEVE IT WAS AT THE ONYX--

WITH DON BYAS AND DIZZY

AND DON WAS LEAVING THE BAND

AND I THOUGHT DON WAS JUST THE END.

I LOVED DON'S MUSIC

AND I KNEW THE PRESS AGENT AT THE CLUB

AND ASKED WHO THEY COULD POSSIBLY GET

TO REPLACE DON BYAS

AND THEY SAID, "THERE'S A CAT IN KANSAS CITY--

"YOU DON'T KNOW HIM.

HIS NAME'S CHARLIE PARKER."

AND I SAID, "IS HE CUTE?"

AND MY FRIEND SAID, "NO, BUT YOU'LL DIG HIM."

BUT BIRD NEVER MADE THAT GIG, AND THEN WHEN HE DID COME

HE OPENED AT THE DEUCES WITH DIZZY.

THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HEARD HIM.

HIS SOUND WAS SO DIFFERENT

BECAUSE I WAS USED TO JOHNNY HODGES AND BENNY CARTER

AND HIS SOUND TOOK ME A MINUTE TO GET USED TO

BUT I KNEW WHAT HE WAS PLAYING WAS SOMETHING JUST INCREDIBLE.

(Parker playing "Au Privave" )

THE STREET, DURING THAT ERA-- IT WAS DURING WORLD WAR II

AND THERE WERE A LOT OF SERVICEMEN ON THE STREET

FROM THE SOUTH

WHO HAD NEVER SEEN A RACIALLY MIXED COUPLE.

THERE WERE A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH THAT.

Man: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS HAPPENING

BACK IN THE INITIAL PERIOD OF THE BEBOP--

THEY WOULD TAKE A COMPOSITION

AND MAKE A DIFFERENT MELODY OF IT

LIKE "WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?"

THEY WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENT MELODY

THEY WOULDN'T PLAY THE MELODY LIKE

♪ WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? ♪

THEY WOULD PLAY A BEBOP LINE TO IT.

WE WOULD CALL IT A LINE, A MELODY

THE OUT CHORUS ON THE SAME CHORDS

AND MAYBE CHANGE A FEW OF THE CHORDS

IN THE STRUCTURE OF THE TUNE.

Ross: BIRD FIRST RECORDED AS A LEADER IN NOVEMBER OF 1945

WITH DIZZY, MAX ROACH AND MILES DAVIS.

THE MASTERPIECE OF THE SESSION WAS BASED

ON CHARLIE'S SPECIALTY, "CHEROKEE."

CHARLIE BARNET HAD POPULARIZED IT DESPITE ITS DIFFICULT CHORDS.

PARKER'S VERSION IGNORED THE SONG'S MELODY ENTIRELY.

THE RESULT ENCOMPASSED EVERYTHING PARKER HAD LEARNED.

IT WAS AN INSPIRED, THRILLING ASSAULT ON MUSICAL CONVENTIONS

AND HE CALLED HIS LINE

"KOKO."

(Parker playing "Koko" )

(trumpet solo )

(saxophone solo )

(trumpet, saxophone duet )

(saxophone and drums )

TWO WEEKS AFTER THE "KOKO" SESSION

BIRD AND DIZZY MADE A FATEFUL VISIT TO LOS ANGELES.

FOR CHARLIE, THE TRIP LASTED TWO YEARS

AND PROVED ALMOST FATAL.

Gillespie: WE HAD AN EIGHT-WEEK JOB RIGHT THEN

AND IT WAS VERY NEW MUSIC.

CALIFORNIA WAS A LONG WAYS OFF

AND THEY WERE BEHIND IN EVOLUTION.

ONLY THE GUYS FROM NEW YORK THAT WERE OUT THERE

THAT KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING, YOU KNOW, WITH THE NEW MUSIC.

Ross: BIRD HAD HIS TRIUMPHS IN L.A.-- "YARDBIRD SUITE"

"A NIGHT IN TUNISIA," "ORNITHOLOGY" AND MORE

BUT HE WAS COMING APART AT THE SEAMS

DRINKING HEAVILY AND OVERINDULGING HIS ADDICTION.

DURING THAT TIME, HEROIN WAS THE THING

AND IF BIRD GOT HIGH

ALL THE MUSICIANS AND FANS FIGURED

THAT WAS THE THING TO DO.

THAT'S HOW MUCH PEOPLE IDOLIZED HIM

AND THEY WOULD DO IT JUST BECAUSE CHARLIE PARKER DID IT.

Man: WHEN CHARLIE PARKER USED DRUGS

IT SEEMED TO BE ALMOST SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE

AS FAR AS THE PEOPLE IN AND AROUND MUSIC.

I THOUGHT THE HEROIN AND THE BEBOP

AND THE WHOLE LIFESTYLE THING WENT TOGETHER.

I FELT THAT ONE HAD TO USE HEROIN

TO PLAY LIKE CHARLIE PARKER PLAYED.

(piano playing "Lover Man" )

Porter: THE "LOVER MAN" SESSION--

I CALL IT THE MOST CATASTROPHIC RECORDING SESSION IN HISTORY.

BIRD CAME IN LATE, EVERYBODY WAS ALL...

EVERYBODY WAS REALLY LATE

BUT BIRD HADN'T MADE HIS CONNECTION

AND HE WAS TRYING TO MAKE A SESSION WITHOUT HIS MEDICINE

TO PUT IT LIGHTLY.

I CAN'T PUT THEM IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

HOW THEY WENT DOWN, BUT WE DID...

WAS IT... WE DID "BEBOP"

"MAX MAKING WAX"-- AND HE SCUFFLED THROUGH THOSE--

IN FACT, HE SCUFFLED THROUGH ALL OF THEM--

"LOVER MAN" AND "THE GYPSY."

BY THE TIME WE GOT TO "THE GYPSY," HE WAS SO...

SO OUT OF IT... HE WAS-- THE MAN WAS ILL.

HE JUST COULDN'T GO ON ANY FARTHER.

NOW, I'D BEEN ON THE STAND WITH HIM BEFORE

WHERE HE HAD TO LEAVE THE STAND

LIKE AT THE HI-DE-HO CLUB AND DIFFERENT CLUBS.

THIS WAS IN THE RECORDING SESSION

AND HOWARD HAD TO FINISH THE SESSION OUT

SO THEY HAD TO TAKE HIM HOME.

THAT'S THE REASON I CALLED IT THE MOST CATASTROPHIC SESSION

BECAUSE WHAT HE PLAYED ON THOSE TUNES, BIRD WAS REAL ILL

BUT IF YOU LISTEN TO "LOVER MAN"-- NOTHING BUT SOUL.

(Parker playing "Lover Man" with piano and drums )

(piano solo )

NOBODY WAS PARTICULARLY AWARE OF EXACTLY WHEN HE CAME HOME.

THERE WAS CERTAINLY NO WELCOME HOME CELEBRATION--

HE JUST REAPPEARED ON THE SCENE

AND WAS VERY CLEAN FOR QUITE A WHILE.

I SAW A SIDE OF CHARLIE PARKER WHEN HE WAS STRAIGHT.

HE WAS VERY GOOD, VERY NORMAL, HAPPY COMPANY.

WE WENT OUT TO THE BEACH TOGETHER

WITH MY WIFE, MY MOTHER-IN-LAW AND MY LITTLE DAUGHTER

AND WE'D EAT HOT DOGS AND WALK ALONG THE BEACH

AND IT WAS JUST LIKE YOUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR.

THERE WAS THAT SIDE TO CHARLIE WHICH NOT EVERYBODY SAW.

HE HAD A GREAT SENSE OF CARING.

I WAS WITH EARL HINES, YARD AND I BOTH WERE WITH HIM

AND AT INTERMISSION I WAS SITTING UP PLAYING THE PIANO

RIGHT, LIKE THIS.

AND THEN SOME WHITE GUY THREW A COUPLE PENNIES UP ON THE STAGE.

I LOOKED DOWN AT THE PENNIES, BUT WE KEPT PLAYING.

WELL, THAT NIGHT, AFTER THE DANCE

WHEN I THOUGHT EVERYBODY HAD LEFT

BECAUSE IT WAS A WHITE DANCE, I WENT TO THE TOILET.

AND WHEN I CAME OUT OF THE TOILET

I JUST HAPPENED TO LOOK ROUND LIKE THIS

AND THIS GUY HAD A BOTTLE

AND HE HIT ME UP HERE WITH THIS BOTTLE

AND THE BLOOD CAME RUNNING DOWN MY UNIFORM LIKE THAT

AND I PICKED UP ONE OF THOSE BIG BEER BOTTLES--

I WAS GOING TO CROWN THIS GUY-- AND A LOT OF GUYS GRABBED ME

AND CHARLIE PARKER CAME IN AND SAW ALL THIS BLOOD

AND HE TOLD THE GUYS, SAYING

"YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF MY FRIEND, YOU CUR."

HE CALLED HIM A CUR!

FIRST TIME I'D HEARD THAT.

ONE DAY MY DOORBELL ON 52nd STREET RANG.

I WAS LIVING WITH KIM AND MY MOTHER

AND THIS WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS SAID

"THERE'S A MAN HERE ON A HORSE TO SEE YOU."

WELL, I KNEW IT COULD ONLY BE BIRD.

SO I WENT DOWN AND THERE WAS BIRD ON A PALOMINO

AND HE'D COME TO SHOW THE HORSE TO KIM

BUT THE REASON HE DID THAT WAS

BECAUSE HE HAD GREAT RESPECT FOR MY FATHER

WHOM HE'D NEVER MET.

HE HAD A CLUB AT ONE TIME

AND HE'D HAVE THE ORCHESTRA COME TO WESTCHESTER AFTER WORK

TO PLAY UNDER MY WINDOW "WHY DO I LOVE YOU?"

AND BIRD WAS JUST EMULATING MY FATHER.

HE DIDN'T HAVE A BAND TO BRING AND SO HE BROUGHT THE HORSE.

HE WANTED TO DO SOMETHING THAT KIM WOULD REMEMBER

THE WAY I REMEMBERED MY FATHER BRINGING THE BAND.

Ross: THE LATE '40s WERE THE GLORY YEARS OF BEBOP.

THE KEY INNOVATORS BEGAN TO ALIGN THE NEW MUSIC

TO THEIR SEPARATE MUSICAL INTERESTS.

DIZZY GILLESPIE SUGGESTED "THINGS TO COME"

WHEN HE FORMED A BIG BAND.

CHARLIE PARKER'S PREFERRED INSTRUMENTATION REMAINED

FOR THE TIME BEING, HIS QUINTET:

ALTO SAX, TRUMPET, PIANO, BASS AND DRUMS.

(Parker quintet playing "Relaxin' at the Camarillo" )

(saxophone solo )

ALTHOUGH PARKER RECEIVED LITTLE ATTENTION

FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC

HIS FAME AMONG MUSICIANS WAS WORLDWIDE.

HIS STYLE WAS ENDLESSLY ANALYZED AND IMITATED.

YOU COULDN'T PLAY IN THE MODERN JAZZ IDIOM

WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING A DEBT TO BIRD.

IN 1949, HE MADE HIS FIRST OF TWO SUCCESSFUL EUROPEAN TOURS.

IN PARIS HE REALIZED

HE COULD ACHIEVE THE RESPECT

RESERVED FOR CLASSICAL MUSICIANS AT HOME.

FANS FOLLOWED HIM WITH RECORDING DEVICES

TO PRESERVE EVERY SOLO, EVERY GLIMMER

OF A MUSICAL IDEA.

(Parker playing "Bloomdido" )

Chan Parker: HE FELT VERY, VERY PROUD AND VERY HONORED

AND HE WAS TREATED SO DIFFERENTLY OVER THERE.

HE CAME BACK WITH GIFTS

AND RECORDS THAT PEOPLE HAD GIVEN HIM

AND HE WANTED TO MOVE THERE.

HE REALLY... I THINK THAT WAS HIS GREATEST TRIUMPH--

THE TWO EUROPEAN TOURS.

Ross: THE TRIP ABROAD ALSO STRENGTHENED HIS RESOLVE

TO EXPAND THE CONTEXT OF HIS MUSIC.

WITH THE HELP OF PRODUCER NORMAN GRANZ

HE ORGANIZED AN ENSEMBLE OF STRINGS

FOR TOURING AND RECORDING.

THE STRINGS REFLECTED HIS LONGSTANDING PASSION

FOR MODERN CLASSICAL MUSIC.

HE HOPED TO STUDY COMPOSITION WITH EDGAR VARESE

BUT THERE WOULDN'T BE TIME.

INSTEAD, HE RECORDED POP SONGS

INCLUDING THE MASTERFUL "JUST FRIENDS."

Morgan: BIRD TOLD ME THAT WHEN HE WAS TRAVELING

WITH THE STRING SECTION

THAT HE WAS ON HIS BEST BEHAVIOR.

HE SHOWED UP ON TIME, HE DRESSED WELL

HE KEPT HIS DRUG USE TO A MINIMUM.

HE PRACTICED HARD EVERY DAY.

HE SAID HE FELT LIKE HE WAS BEING PRESENTED...

HE WAS BEING SHOWCASED PROPERLY.

IT WAS A VERY BIG, DEEP HURT TO BIRD

WHEN THEY TOOK THE STRINGS-- THAT'S THE WAY HE SAID IT--

"WHEN THEY TOOK THE STRINGS AWAY FROM ME."

(Parker playing "Just Friends")

Ross: PARKER WAS CAUGHT IN A TAILSPIN.

HE TRIED TO CUT DOWN ON DRUGS AND MADE IT UP WITH WINE.

HE WAS ERRATIC, OFTEN LATE

AND SOMETIMES ABSENT FROM JOBS.

ONE NIGHT, AFTER AN ARGUMENT, HE WAS BANNED FROM BIRDLAND--

THE FAMOUS JAZZ CLUB NAMED IN HIS HONOR.

YET BIRD COULD STILL PLAY WITH GREAT BRILLIANCE.

IN 1952, BIRD AND DIZZY PERFORMED

ON THE TELEVISION SHOW STAGE ENTRANCE

WITH NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST EARL WILSON.

WELL, YOU KNOW, BIRD ALWAYS FELT THAT PREJUDICE COMING THROUGH

THAT EARL DEFINITELY SHOWS ON THE TAPE.

SOMEHOW HE GOT THROUGH IT WITH GRITTED TEETH

BUT I LOVE THE EXPRESSIONS ON THE VIDEO WHERE...

I MEAN, THAT'S A DEFINITE PUTDOWN.

BIRD COULD KILL WITH A LOOK, YOU KNOW.

AND HERE HE IS, MR. LEONARD FEATHER.

WELL, THIS IS QUITE AN OCCASION, ISN'T IT?

LISTEN, WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THE...

DO I SAY, "GIMME FIVE," OR "GIMME SOME SKIN"

OR IS THAT STUFF OUT OF DATE?

I HAVE TO LOOK ATDOWNBEAT TO FIND OUT.

ANYWAY, IT'S QUITE AN EVENT.

IN TWO SENSES, EARL, BECAUSE IN MUSIC

WE'VE BEEN PRACTICING BROTHERHOOD

FOR QUITE A LONG TIME.

A MAN'S COLOR AND RELIGION DON'T MATTER

WITH A HORN IN HIS HANDS.

ONLY TALENT COUNTS.

THEDOWNBEAT ALL-AMERICAN BAND

IS ALL-AMERICAN BECAUSE IT'S OF DIFFERENT CREEDS AND RACES.

THAT'S RIGHT.

HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET RID OF THESE?

I'VE DONE THIS FOR A WHILE.

IT WOULD BE A NICE CHANGE

IF I TURNED IT OVER TO YOU.

I'D LOVE TO.

WELL, CHARLIE, DIZZY...

WELL, HERE THEY ARE.

THIS IS CHARLIE PARKER

AND THE FAMOUS DIZZY GILLESPIE.

NOW, FELLOWS, LEONARD SAYS

I'M SUPPOSED TO BE

THE TOASTMASTER OF THE SHOW--

THE GEORGIE JESSEL OF JAZZ.

SO CHARLIE, I WANT TO AWARD YOU NOW

THEDOWNBEAT AWARD

FOR THE BEST ALTO SAX MAN OF 1951.

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU.

AND DIZ, THIS IS TO YOU FROMDOWNBEAT

FOR BEING ONE OF THE TOP TRUMPET MEN OF ALL TIME.

CONGRATULATIONS, DIZ--

I MEAN DIZZY-- I GOT A LITTLE INFORMAL THERE.

YOU BOYS GOT ANYTHING MORE TO SAY?

THEY SAY MUSIC SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS

SO WE'D RATHER VOICE OUR OPINION THAT WAY.

THAT WOULD BE ALL RIGHT.

GOOD.

WHILE YOU FELLOWS ARE SETTING UP

I BETTER TELL THE PUBLIC

THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME REALLY TORRID TEMPO

WITH CHARLIE PARKER AT THE ALTO SAX

AND DIZ AT THE TRUMPET

AND DICK HYMAN AT THE PIANO.

THEY'RE GOING TO PLAY-- WHAT IS IT?

I THINK IT'S "HOT HOUSE."

"HOT HOUSE"-- LET'S GO.

(playing "Hot House" )

(saxophone solo )

(trumpet solo )

(piano solo )

(drum solo )

(applause )

Feather: THE OTHER ASPECT OF THE BEBOP THING

THAT WAS SO UPSETTING TO MUSICIANS

WAS THAT PEOPLE TREATED IT AS A JOKE.

WRITE-UPS INTIME ANDLIFE AND SO FORTH

CONCENTRATED ON DIZZY'S BERET AND THE HORN-RIMMED GLASSES

AND EVERYTHING BUT THE MUSIC ITSELF.

THERE WAS NO SERIOUS ATTENTION PAID

TO CHARLIE PARKER AS A GREAT CREATIVE MUSICIAN

IN THE GENERAL NATIONAL PRESS, IN THE NEWSPAPERS

IN THE MAGAZINES, ON RADIO, ON TELEVISION.

IT WAS JUST HORRIFYING HOW REALLY MISERABLY HE WAS TREATED

AND THIS GOES FOR THE WAY DIZZY GILLESPIE WAS TREATED

AND EVERYBODY.

♪ I DIG IT, YOU AIN'T HIP, OLD MAN ♪

♪ 'CAUSE E-Z POP POPS IN ITS OWN PAN. ♪

♪ YOU MEAN E-Z POP POPS IN ITS OWN PAN? ♪

♪ NOW YOU'RE SWINGING, DADDY AND CRAZY MAN. ♪

♪ WHY DON'T YOU MAKE IT WITH ME TO THE GROCERY SHOP ♪

♪ WE'LL BOTH DIG A PAN OF THIS E-Z POP. ♪

(scat singing )

E-Z POP, MAN, THAT'S REAL "BOP" CORN.

Announcer: Here's "Anthropology."

(drums and horn jazz music )

Haynes: BIRD, HE WAS A VERY DIFFERENT TYPE OF A PERSON.

I ALWAYS ENJOYED PLAYING WITH HIM AND BEING AROUND HIM.

SOME NIGHTS HE WOULD COME IN AND THE CLUB WOULD BE CROWDED.

HE WOULD JUST COME AND PLAY HIS HEART OUT AND BURN.

HE COULD SEE SOMETHING HAPPEN

AND PLAY ABOUT IT ON HIS INSTRUMENT.

HE'D SEE A PRETTY GIRL WALK IN

HE'D BE PLAYING A SOLO, AND ALL OF THE SUDDEN HE'D GO INTO

♪ A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY ♪

WHEREVER HE WAS AND MAKE IT FIT IN.

OR SOMEBODY WAS ACTING A LITTLE "LOOKIE-TOONIE"

HE'D PLAY SOMETHING TO FIT THAT--

YOU KNOW, FAST.

FAST MIND, GENIUS MIND, AND IT WOULD FIT.

I NOTICED SOMETIMES HE'D BE PLAYING A SOLO

AND HE'D BE PLAYING-- ♪ THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS ♪

AND HE COULD PLAY IN DIFFERENT KEYS:

♪ DA DADA DA DA DAH DA ♪

AND HE'S BURNING.

AT THE END, I'D SAY

"BIRD, WHATDID HAPPEN THE LAST TIME YOU SAW PARIS?"

Ross: CHARLIE HAD TWO CHILDREN WITH CHAN

IN ADDITION TO HER DAUGHTER, KIM--

A BOY, BAIRD, AND A GIRL, PRE.

IN MARCH OF 1954, WHILE WORKING IN CALIFORNIA

HE LEARNED THAT PRE, NOT YET THREE YEARS OLD

DIED OF A CONGESTIVE HEART CONDITION.

HE BROKE.

(Parker playing "Funky Blues" )

EVENTUALLY, CHARLIE SEPARATED FROM CHAN

AND STAYED WITH FRIENDS IN GREENWICH VILLAGE.

BUT FIRST, HE MADE PEACE WITH A PART OF HIS PAST.

Parker Davis: THE LAST TIME I SAW HIM WAS '54

WHEN HE BROUGHT CHAN TO THE HOUSE.

EARLY ONE MORNING, HE USHERED ME IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN.

I HADN'T LOOKED AT HIM THEN

AND WE WERE LOOKING OUT THE KITCHEN WINDOW

AND HE HAD HIS HAND OVER MINE, LIKE THAT.

HE SAYS, "IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

THIS IS WHAT I WOULD WANT."

HE SAYS, "PLEASE FORGIVE ME."

AND THAT'S WHEN I LOOKED UP AT HIM

AND I SAYS, "OH, MY GOD, HE'S DYING."

Ross: PARKER WAS REDUCED TO PLAYING IN DIVES

THAT WERE LITTLE MORE THAN EMPTY STOREFRONTS.

DRINKING CHEAP RED WINE, HE EXACERBATED HIS STOMACH ULCERS.

HE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.

ON MARCH 9, 1955, A YEAR AFTER THE DEATH OF HIS DAUGHTER

CHARLIE VISITED HIS FRIEND

THE BARONESS PANNONICA DE KOENIGSWARTER

AN ARDENT JAZZ ENTHUSIAST WHO LIVED AT THE STANHOPE HOTEL.

THREE DAYS LATER, HE DIED IN HER LIVING ROOM

WHILE WATCHINGTHE TOMMY DORSEY SHOW ON TELEVISION.

THE MEDICAL EXAMINER ESTIMATED HIS AGE AT 55 TO 60

AND ATTRIBUTED DEATH TO LOBAR PNEUMONIA.

CHARLIE PARKER WAS 34 YEARS OLD.

Morgan: WHEN I FIRST HEARD THAT CHARLIE PARKER HAD DIED

I WAS ON THE BANDSTAND AT THE CALIFORNIA CLUB

ON A MONDAY NIGHT IN LOS ANGELES.

WE TOOK ADVANTAGE THAT BIRD HAD DIED TO ANNOUNCE TO THE PEOPLE

THAT WE WERE GOING TO TAKE AN EXTRA-LONG INTERMISSION.

AND WE PROCEEDED TO GO CELEBRATE BIRD'S DEATH

BY DOING THE VERY THING THAT KILLED HIM.

THIS IS THE WAY WE CELEBRATED BIRD'S PASSING

WAS TO GO OUT AND USE SOME JUNK, YOU KNOW, ALL OF US.

I THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF WE HAD REALIZED

THAT IT WAS TIME TO STOP.

WELL, I DIDN'T HAVE A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

AND HE HAD BEEN TAKEN TO THE FUNERAL HOME

WHERE OUR DAUGHTER, WHO HAD DIED A YEAR BEFORE, HAD BEEN.

AND WE ALSO HAD A TWO-GRAVE PLOT

IN THE CEMETERY WHERE SHE WAS BURIED.

AND I KNEW THAT BIRD DIDN'T WANT TO GO KANSAS CITY

AND THAT HE WOULD HAVE WANTED TO HAVE BEEN BURIED

NEXT TO OUR DAUGHTER.

AND... NOT HAVING A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

I DIDN'T HAVE ANY CONTROL

AND HE WAS TAKEN OUT OF THE FUNERAL HOME.

HE WAS TAKEN TO HARLEM.

HIS SUIT WAS CHANGED-- HE WAS PUT IN A PINSTRIPE SUIT.

A CRUCIFIX WAS HUNG OVER HIS COFFIN-- BIRD WAS IRRELIGIOUS.

AND HE WAS TAKEN TO KANSAS CITY

AND HE WAS BURIED FROM ADAM CLAYTON POWELL'S CHURCH

BY THE REVEREND LICORICE WHO HAD--

THE MUSIC WAS "THE LOST CHORD."

AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAD TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF HIM FINANCIALLY

AND BUSINESSWISE DURING HIS LIFE WERE THE PALLBEARERS

AND IT WAS REALLY A TRAVESTY

TO USE ONE OF BIRD'S FAVORITE WORDS.

THEY WERE GOING TO BURY HIM OUT HERE

UP HERE IN NEW YORK SOMEPLACE.

SO, I WAS THINKING, I SAID, "I DON'T THINK THAT'S RIGHT"

BECAUSE HIS MOTHER HAS BEEN DOWN THERE ALL THIS TIME

YOU KNOW, AND IT LOOKED LIKE SHE SHOULD HAVE THE PLEASURE

OF GOING OUT TO THE GRAVE SITE

AND PUTTING FLOWERS ON THE GRAVE.

WE HAD A CLOSE, A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP.

HE KISSED ME ON MY MOUTH, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THOSE THINGS.

WE LOVED ONE ANOTHER, YOU KNOW.

McShann: CHARLIE PARKER'S GREATEST TRIUMPH

WAS WHAT HE DID FOR JAZZ;

WHAT HE DID FOR JAZZ, WHAT HE DID FOR MUSIC.

HE CHANGED THE WHOLE COMPLETE SCENE.

AS WE SAID A WHILE AGO, HE WAS DEFINITELY A STYLIST.

EVERYBODY WENT THAT WAY: PIANO PLAYERS, TROMBONE PLAYERS

TRUMPET PLAYERS, SAXOPHONE PLAYERS.

♪ ♪

Morgan: THE TRIUMPH OF CHARLIE PARKER MEANS TO ME THAT BIRD LIVES.

BELIEVE ME, HE LIVES.

HIS MUSIC LIVES.

THE TRIUMPH IS CHARLIE PARKER, CHARLIE PARKER IS VALID.

IT'S HERE.

Ross: CHARLIE PARKER ONCE SAID, "MUSIC IS YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE.

"YOUR THOUGHTS, YOUR WISDOM.

IF YOU DON'T LIVE IT, IT WON'T COME OUT OF YOUR HORN."

Radio announcer: IT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING.

WE GET SO MANY CALLS FOR IT, IT'S MARVELOUS.

Parker: THANK YOU.

Announcer: I'D LIKE TO ASK YOU

ABOUT THIS NEW RECORDING THAT YOU JUST MADE, "LEAP FROG"--

IS THAT THE OLD "LEAP FROG" THAT LES BROWN MADE?

Parker: NO, IT'S AN ORIGINAL.

IT'S SOMETHING OF MINE

THAT NORMAN GRANZ DECIDED TO CALL "LEAP FROG."

Announcer: AND THE OTHER SIDE YOU CALL "RELAXING WITH LEE."

WHO'S LEE?

Parker: I DON'T KNOW.

THEY NAME THOSE TUNES AFTER I LEAVE THE STUDIO.

Announcer: THEY NAME IT AFTER... IT COULD BE LEE KOENITZ

IT COULD BE LEE... SOMEBODY, I DON'T KNOW.

YOU KNOW, I ONLY DID THIS, REALLY, BIRD

BECAUSE YOU HAVE SUCH A WONDERFUL SPEAKING VOICE

AND NOT EVERYBODY GETS A CHANCE TO HEAR YOU.

AND I THOUGHT, YOU KNOW

THAT JUST GETTING YOU TO TALK A LITTLE BIT

WOULD MAKE EVERYBODY FEEL FINE.

YOUR ORIGINAL... WHERE IS YOUR HOME, BY THE WAY?

Parker: KANSAS CITY.

Announcer: I WAS GOING TO SAY THAT-- WE REACH THAT FAR.

Parker: YOU DO?

THERE'S A CHANCE FRIENDS OF MINE IN MY HOMETOWN ARE LISTENING.

Announcer: I WONDER IF THERE'S A FRIEND IN KANSAS CITY THIS MORNING

WHO IS LISTENING TO CHARLIE PARKER AND STRINGS.

I WONDER WOULD THEY CALL BOB GARRITY

IN THE SNAKE PIT OVER THERE AT JETSON 6-5454.

WHO DO YOU THINK MIGHT BE LISTENING THIS MORNING?

Parker: I DON'T KNOW-- I HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS IN KANSAS CITY.

Announcer: YOU DO HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS IN KANSAS CITY?

Parker: YEAH.

Announcer: WE HAVE STOPPED TAKING REQUESTS, BUT JUST FOR KICKS

IT WOULD BE REAL WONDERFUL IF SOMEBODY FROM KANSAS CITY--

HEY, GARRITY, YOU MAY GET A CALL FROM KANSAS CITY.

IF YOU DO, WOULD YOU SORT OF RUSH IT OUT?

Captioned by The Caption Center WGBH Educational Foundation

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