Charlie Parker passed away this day in 1955 in New York City aged just thirty four. What a legacy he left.
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“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” – Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker Quintet at The Royal Roost, 1580 Broadway New York, 18 December 1948
“Charlie had a photographic mind. When we would rehearse a new arrangement, he would run his part down once and when we were ready to play it a second time, he knew the whole thing from memory.” – Earl Hines
“They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker
“I spent my first week in New York looking for Bird and Dizzy, Man, I went everywhere looking for those cats.” – Miles Davis
Charlie Parker with Dizzy Gillespie at the Town Hall in New York, June 1945
“Jazz is the big brother of the Blues. If a guy’s playing Blues he’s in high school. When he starts playing Jazz it’s like going on to college.” – B.B. King
“It’s been hard goddam work, man. Feel like I spent 20,000 years on the planes and railroads, like I blowed my chops off. Sure, pops, I like the ovation, but when I’m low, beat down, wonder if maybe I hadn’t of been better off staying home in New Orleans.”
Thelonious Monk made a couple of appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1975 and 1976 but other than that there was silence from the once prolific pianist. During this time he lived in New Jersey with his friend, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter.
Many conflicting stories have been put forward as to why Monk was absent. They range from drug theories, both his own use of them and the inadvertent taking of LSD; others talk of brain damage, most people agreed there were mental health issues. The fact is that he didn’t play in public, and those who appear to be in the know think he didn’t play in private either, after his 1976 Newport appearance, until he died in February 1982 from a stroke.
Whatever the theories, the circumstances or the truth, the one truth is that the world lost a great and gifted musician – a true jazz visionary. But he has left behind a body of work that offers a jazz landscape more diverse and more challenging than most of his contemporaries. Sure there are other jazz artists who played it obscure, but none of them played it half as well or half as interestingly as Thelonious Monk. The world is catching up with Monk. In 1993 he won a posthumous Grammy and in 2002 a Pulitzer Prize special citation. He’s no doubt up there, doing it straight. . .no chaser.
“Singing a song is like telling a story. So I pick songs that I can really feel.” – Nat King Cole