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Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker
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Herman Leonard, 1923 - 2010
Charlie Parker, 29 Aug 1920 - 12 Mar 1955
1949 (printed 1998)
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
Image: 38.7 × 30.2cm (15 1/4 × 11 7/8")
Sheet: 40.6 × 50.3cm (16 × 19 13/16")
Frame: 71.8 × 56.5 × 3.8 cm (28 1/4 × 22 1/4 × 1 1/2")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© Herman Leonard Photography LLC
Object number
Exhibition Label
A startlingly innovative musician, Charlie “Bird” Parker played a pivotal role in shifting jazz from the domain of the big band to the ensemble, where dynamic, improvised solos both propelled and defined the music. Parker began playing the alto saxophone as a youth in Kansas City, Missouri—a vibrant hub for jazz and blues. Steady work as a musician proved elusive when he went to New York City in 1939, but jam sessions at the city’s nightspots fueled his experimentation with rhythm and phrasing. After several years with Jay McShann’s swing band (1940–42) and short stints with the big bands of Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine, Parker embarked on a new phase of his career in 1945. Showcasing his genius for improvisation through performances and recordings with small ensembles, and later with his own quintet, Parker energized the growing bebop movement. A decade of groundbreaking creativity ended with his death at thirty-four, following years of substance abuse and struggles with mental illness.
Músico de asombrosa inventiva, Charlie “Bird” Parker tuvo un papel esencial en la transición del jazz desde las grandes bandas hacia conjuntos más reducidos, donde la dinámica de los solos improvisados no solo impulsaba sino que definía la música. Comenzó a tocar el saxofón alto siendo todavía un adolescente en Kansas City, Missouri, entonces un vibrante centro de jazz y blues. Aunque al mudarse a New York en 1939 se le hizo difícil encontrar trabajo fijo, las sesiones de jam en los locales nocturnos avivaron su deseo de experimentar con los ritmos y el fraseo. Luego de varios años con la banda de swing de Jay McShann (1940–42) y breves actuaciones con las big bands de Earl Hines y Billy Eckstine, Parker se lanzó a una nueva fase en su carrera en 1945. Demostrando su genio para la improvisación en actuaciones y grabaciones con conjuntos pequeños, y luego con su propio quinteto, Parker energizó el creciente movimiento del bebop. Esa década de creatividad vanguardista llegó a su fin con la muerte del músico a los treinta y cuatro años, tras un largo período de drogadicción y problemas mentales.
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National Portrait Gallery
United States\New York\Kings\New York