12 Bar Blues for Bird (Charlie Parker)
Materials Carved glass, wood, and brass
The exact source of his nickname “Yardbird” or just plain “Bird” has been lost in mythology. He was born in 1920 in Kansas City and was a product of the legendary jam session battles that occurred in the afterhours clubs of his late adolescence. He began professionally in the Jay McShann Big Band and in the early 1940’s he formed one of the most famous quintets of all time with Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Thelonious Monk on piano, Charlie Christian on guitar, and Kenny Clark on drums. He was certainly one of the founders of bebop and the most respected alto saxophone players ever. Toward the end of his life he performed in the classic Massey Hall concert in Toronto with Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell on piano, Charles Mingus on bass and Max Roach on Drums.
Even though hard living cut short his career (he died at 34 looking like an old man) his mastery of improvisation and his instrument remains to this day the level to which all succeeding players strive. The music was written especially for this piece by jazz pianist and composer Karen Lehrer who studied with Lennie Tristano, the piano player with Charlie Parker in the 1949 Metronome All Stars.