How Charlie Parker occupied my life

How Charlie Parker occupied my life


norman lebrecht

August 30, 2020

From the composer Michael Robinson:

It was an unforgettable and forever epiphany and transformation listening to a Charlie Parker recording of How High the Moon in tenth grade, retaining the song in my head simultaneously with the variations he wove, being particularly dazzled by Bird’s rhythms and technique. His improvisational genius took flight within songs by composers and lyricists of genius together with blues forms. Coalescing synergistically with his rhythms, Parker’s melodies within harmonies, timbres, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, and expression were all immortal revelations. Today, 29 August 2020, one hundred years since his birth, music remains inconceivable without his influence. Bird and Bach are forever cornerstones.

Lee Konitz, whose friends included Leonard Bernstein and Lennie Tristano, told me Charlie Parker was easily the most intelligent person he ever met. Charlie Colin recalled for me Bird’s childlike qualities, relating about the time the alto saxophonist enthusiastically played with flashcards creating the illusion of a movie while they rode on a train together leaving NYC. David Amram was so deeply touched by Charlie Parker’s friendship and encouragement, a day rarely goes by without recalling their time together.

– Michael Robinson, August 2020, Los Angeles



  • Larry says:

    “Charlie Parker With Strings” is definitely one of my “desert island discs.” Absolutely brilliant.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Here is the history of Jazz in a nutshell:
    Louis Armstrong
    Duke Ellington
    Charlie Parker
    Miles Davis
    John Coltrane
    – and there you have it….

    • drummerman says:

      What? No drummers??

      • Greg Bottini says:

        So sorry, drummerman….
        I’m a drummer myself, and there are a number of great drummers who influenced jazz drumming tremendously, but not really the music as a whole.
        For your consideration, here’s my list of the greatest, most influential stickmen:
        Baby Dodds
        Sonny Greer
        Gene Krupa
        Dave Tough
        Max Roach
        Art Blakey
        Joe Morello
        Tony Williams
        What say you?
        (I didn’t put Buddy Rich on the list because although he had unbelievable technique, and he certainly should be mentioned, he was a one-off, a freak of nature; except for wowing all of us, he really didn’t alter the history of jazz drumming.)
        – all best wishes, Greg

    • Morgan says:

      May need a bit of expansion.

  • kuma says:

    Wut. No Evans?

    • drummerman says:

      Or Hawkins or Young or Tatum or Roach or Teagarden or Beiderbecke or…….

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Ah, please, kuma and drummerman – I was naming the MOST influential, altering-the-very-course-of-the-music people.
        I love every musician who you both mentioned, believe me, and I SHOULD have put Lester Young on my list – consider it done.
        But honestly, can you put Teas or Bean or even Evans (my favorite jazz pianist) on the same mighty level as Bird or Duke or Louis or Miles or Trane or Lester?
        Be reasonable….
        – your friend and fellow jazz lover, Greg

  • Carlos Jorge says:

    And the genesis … the genesis of Jazz!