Music is your own experience, your 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.
I lit my fire, I greased my skillet, and I cooked. —Charlie Parker
From the Preface...
Charlie Parker (1920-55) was one of the most innovative and influential of all jazz musicians, regardless of era. His position in jazz is analogous to Louis Armstrong's in that both musicians advanced the music that they had inherited with regard to melody, rhythm, and harmony, inviting all jazz instrumentalists and composers of any era to reevaluate every aspect of their arts....
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. The music of Parker and his peers, once considered to be merely the artistic expression of a revolutionary minority within an African-American musical minority, continues to influence American music more than fifty years after bebop's inception. Not strictly the iconoclastic movement that some critics, listeners and musicians believed it to be, modern jazz was based in earlier jazz styles and actually codified the "common practice" techniques of jazz, going on to become the lingua franca of jazz....
The path of artistic discovery is always a highly personal one. During Parker's years of development, formal college-based study of jazz was not readily available. Despite Parker's limited opportunities for formal instruction, we should in no way minimize the depth of musical knowledge that he attained. He was in many ways a product of a jazz culture that no longer exists, one rich with both older master musicians to serve as role models and a network of countless jam sessions and jobs for experience. In a miraculous and undefinable process, Charlie Parker's brilliant talent, insightful study and many hours of playing music came together to form the artist whose work this book celebrates.
This book begins with a chapter of biography that endeavors to sketch the main events and currents of Charlie Parker's life. There are many unclear, vague, and contradictory aspects to his life story, and I have made every effort to present the clearest and most accurate picture when possible and to note uncertainties and contradictions when necessary. A chapter of introduction to his music then sets out some of the facets upon which discussion of Parker's music is to be based.
A guided tour of the music of Charlie Parker focusing on his improvisational art follows. It it not the purpose of this book to examine every recording that Charlie Parker ever made; rather, a selective approach has been taken with the goal of introducing the reader to a sampling of Charlie Parker's most illustrative works, much like a guided tour through a retrospective exhibition of a particular artist's work.
Readers are urged to purchase and listen to the most important Parker recordings discussed in this book. The transcribed musical examples are keyed to compact disc timings for easy location, and the CD sources for the examples are found in Appendix A. Once the readers have listened to Parker's works while following the verbal descriptions and discussion of musical examples in the book, they will have acquired a significant basis for appreciation of Parker's musical world. Much like going back, alone, to visit that art exhibition, repeated listenings to the musical examples in this book will yield new discoveries unique to the listener. In addition, it is hoped that the appreciation gained through this guided musical tour will help to illuminate the many other brilliant and moving works in Charlie Parker's recorded legacy that the listener may encounter.
No technical knowledge of music is needed to enjoy the music of Charlie Parker, and readers of this book with no training in music will gain an understanding of Parker's music through discussion of qualities vital to his improvisational art including his facility and virtuosity; intensity of swing feeling; inventiveness and spontaneity; playfulness and sense of humor; and bluesiness and poetic qualities. Many of the musical passages discussed are keyed to compact disc timings and will be easy for the reader to locate and play on Parker CDs. More technical in nature but still accessible to most readers will be descriptions of Parker's music in terms of repertoire; compositional style; rhythmic properties; accents and syncopation; vibrato and timbre; melodic line; and harmonic vocabulary. Readers with technical knowledge of music will of course glean even more appreciation from these descriptions and will be especially interested in the book's transcribed excerpts of Parker's improvised solos and the accompanying analysis of them. It is hoped that all readers will gain greater appreciation of the depth of the art of one of the most brilliant musical artists of any era or any genre, Charlie Parker.
Review on StormHorn.com | 3/20/2010