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Charles "Bird" Parker, Jr. (29 August 1920 – 12 March 1955) was an American jazz saxophonist, and co-inventor of the bebop style of jazz, widely considered one of the most influential of jazz musicians.
- I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born.
- c. 1939 quoted in Masters of Jazz
- l'd been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used all the time at the time, and I kept thinking there's bound to be something else. I could hear it sometimes but I couldn't play it. ... 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.
- On his personal stylistic breakthrough, quoted in Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (1955) edited by Nat Hentoff and Nat Shapiro, . p 354
- Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle, or when he is juiced, is a plain, straight liar. When I get too much to drink, I can't even finger well, let alone play decent ideas. ... You can miss the most important years of your life, the years of possible creation.
- As quoted in Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told by the Men Who Made It (1955) edited by by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, p. 379
- Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.
- As quoted in Bird : The Legend Of Charlie Parker (1977) by Robert George Reisner, p. 27
- Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.
- As quoted in Words of Wisdom (1990) edited by William Safire and Leonard Safir, p. 435
- You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
- As quoted in Acting Is a Job: Real-life Lessons About the Acting Business (2006) by Jason Pugatch, p. 73; this statement has occurred with many different phrasings, including: "Learn the changes, then forget them."
Quotes about Parker
- I want to say something about Charlie Parker, his importance in the picture. As great as we all think Bud Powell is, where would he be without Bird. He's the first one that should remember it—he himself told me that Bird showed him the way to a means of expression. George Shearing shows a good deal of personality, but it's still a take-off on Parker. You take Groovin' High, or pick at random any five records by well-known boppers, and compare the ideas and phrases. You'll see that if Charlie Parker wanted to invoke plagiarism laws, he could sue almost anyone who's made a record in the last 10 years. If I were Bird, I've have all the best boppers in the country thrown into jail.
- Bird's mind and fingers work with incredible speed. He can imply four chord changes in a melodic pattern where another musician would have trouble inserting two.
- If that wasn't Bird, I quit ... You know what's funny? Now I know that Bird was progressing still. The other cats were the ones that were standing still and making Bird sound old, you know? Bird isn't just playing riffs on here, the way his imitators do. You know how he used to be able to talk with his horn, the way he could tell you what chick he was thinking about? That's the way he's playing here. How many stars? FIFTY!
- Charles Mingus, circa 1957, reviewing the track "Cosmic Rays," from Now's The Time!: The Genius of Charlie Parker #3, for the DownBeat "Blindfold Test"; as quoted in The Encyclopedia of Jazz (1960) by Leonard Feather, p. 480
- It sounded like a member of the Charlie Parker school. I've never liked that school—it's one of those out-of-tune, honking-type things...
- Gene Puerling, circa 1959, unwittingly assessing the actual Charlie Parker for DownBeat's "Blindfold Test," specifically in regard to "Old Folks" from Jazz Perennial: The Genius of Charlie Parker #7; as quoted in The Encyclopedia of Jazz (1960) by Leonard Feather, p. 480
- I, myself, came to enjoy the players who didn't only just swing but who invented new rhythmic patterns, along with new melodic concepts. And those people are: Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Parker, who is the greatest genius of all to me because he changed the whole era around.
- During 1945, we used to go down almost every night to catch Diz and Bird wherever they were playing. We felt that if we missed hearing them play, we were missing something important. Man, the shit they were playing and doing was going down so fast, you just had to be there in person to catch it.
- Miles Davis from his autobiography (1989)