Charlie Parker

His Music and Life
Revised Edition
Carl Woideck
A fresh take on Charlie Parker’s artistic evolution and major achievements as a jazz improviser, in time for his centennial


Saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920-1955) was one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of any era. As one of the architects of modern jazz (often called "bebop"), Charlie Parker has had a profound effect on American music. His music reached such a high level of melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic sophistication that saxophonists and other instrumentalists continue to study it as both a technical challenge and an aesthetic inspiration. This revised edition of Charlie Parker: His Music and Life has been revised throughout to account for new Charlie Parker scholarship and previously unknown Parker recordings that have emerged since the book’s initial publication. The volume opens by considering current research on Parker’s biography, laying out some of the contradictory accounts of his life, and setting the chronology straight where possible. It then focuses on Parker’s music, tracing his artistic evolution and major achievements as a jazz improviser. The musical discussions and transcribed musical examples include timecodes for easy location in recordings—a unique feature to this book. 
Carl Woideck is a retired Senior Instructor who teaches part-time at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a valuable work. . . . Music students will find Woideck's informed analysis of much interest; and the general reader will benefit from a greater appreciation of the skill and creativity of this highly influential artist."
    Daily News/L.A. Life
  • "Even readers who cannot play readers who cannot play [the passages featured in the text] or follow them while listening to a recording will find that Woideck's commentaries, enriched by pertinent anecdotes and a wealth of other historical material, deepen their understanding of the many qualities that made Parker a musical giant--his inventiveness, humor, virtuosity and swing-ability."
    Michigan Today
  • "Woideck has done an excellent job at piecing together bits of information provided through interviews and recorded oral histories, which effectively lay to rest several earlier tall tales or misinformed statements about Bird. . . . [T]his book makes a valuable contribution to the archive of Parker scholarship."
  • "In Charlie Parker: His Music and Life, Carl Woideck addresses Parker's achievements in meticulous detail. In doing so, he makes a much-needed case for jazz as an art equally as worthy of serious inquiry as classical music. Although the book is mostly devoted to analyzing Parker's music, it begins with a biographical sketch that seeks to dispel some of the myths that have bedeviled the musician since his death in 1955 at the age of 34. Through well-researched anecdotes as well as musical analysis, Woideck, a saxophonist who teaches jazz history at the University of Oregon, illustrates how Parker's genius sprang from a fortuitous confluence of talent and circumstance. . . .If the book does nothing else, it debunks the stereotype that jazz musicians are unschooled and unsophisticated when it comes to music as art rather than entertainment. As Woideck makes clear, Parker's art was the product of a fertile mind that set challenges for itself, and met those challenges in the studio and on the bandstand. As surely as the saxophonist was an entertainer, he was also an artist. Parker's contribution to American music was as great as that of Louis Armstrong—another genius and innovator who has been similarly underappreciated and misrepresented. . . . Woideck is to be commended for getting past the trap of presenting Parker as a tragic artist in favor of concentrating on his art—and on the meaning of that art for the nation and the world. Charlie Parker is not the last word on Bird. But it is certainly an insightful and informative addition to the literature of jazz."
    —Calvin Wilson, "Another Good Riff on Charlie Parker", Kansas City Star
  • ". . . the musical analysis is brilliant, particularly of the pre-1945 fragments."
    Down Beat
  • ". . . Woideck meticulously analyzes the various ways in which Bird grew from a talented young disciple to the most influential musician of his time and, ultimately, one who relied increasingly on reiteration of earlier licks instead of further innovation."
  • "Carl Woideck, himself a saxophonist and professor of jazz history, has opened up to us some of the inner workings of the improvisational art of Charlie Parker. He takes us to the music itself, painstakingly transcribed from recordings. He walks us through the melodies and harmonies of Bird's characteristic works. . . . Woideck identifies 13 qualities and traits found in Parker's music, including poetic depth, the range of tempos, and the melodic building blocks. . . . [T]he book is superbly competent in its musical analysis. . . ."
    —William Edgar, Books & Culture
  • "Music students will find Woideck's informed analysis of much interest; and the general reader will benefit from a greater appreciation of the skill and creativity of this highly influential artist."
    L.A. Life
  • "Carl Woideck's Charlie Parker: His Music and Life is a useful addition to the Parker literature, building on the work of earlier writers and musicologists like Robert Reisner, Gary Giddins and Thomas Owens. Woideck is a saxophonist and Jazz educator, and the book is an outgrowth of his Master's thesis on Parker's earliest work. There's a brief life of Parker (pgs. 3-50), with illuminating concentration on his musical apprenticeship, but the heart of the book (pgs. 53-221) is the detailed analysis of some key passages from Parker's recordings, divided into four chronological phases. In all, Woideck examines 90 short transcribed passages, and an appendix includes a complete solo transcriptions from each of the four periods. . . . One highly useful feature of the book is that musical examples are keyed to the times at which they appear on CDs, making it much faster (and certainly easier) to find them. It's a small step toward making musicology user-friendly . . . In general, he [Woideck] does a fine job of balancing analysis, verbal description of music, and biography. Those who read music and have some knowledge of harmony will get the most out of it, but Woideck has gone to some lengths to make his book accessible to others with an interest in the musical structures of Jazz. Whatever background you bring to it, the book will likely enrich your understanding of Parker's music, and that's as much as one can ask of any book on the subject."
    —Stuart Broomer, "Book Look", Cadence
  • "Woideck . . . devotes the majority of this book to a well-written and accessible analysis of Parker's music, illustrating points with transcriptions from various recordings . . . . While the untrained reader will likely find it rather rough going, Woideck has worked hard to keep his analysis accessible to anyone with a basic understanding of music . . . . students of jazz will welcome this text; strongly recommended for all jazz collections."
    Library Journal

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: A mention of the book in journalist John Edward Hasse's article | 8/21/2020
Read: A mention of the book on the JazzWax blog | 8/21/2020

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 308pp.
  • 8 photographs, 99 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03789-6

Add to Cart
  • $29.95 U.S.

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