“Bronze Buckaroo” Herb Jeffries, First Black Singing Cowboy, Dies At 100.


 

By Jueseppi B.

tcmHerbJeffries

 

 

A hat tip/shout out to Ms. EK Keratsis

 

 

 

Herbert “Herb” Jeffries, born Umberto Alexander Valentino (September 24, 1913 – May 25, 2014), was an American jazz and popular singer and actor.

 

 

Biography

Jeffries was born Umberto Alexander Valentino in Detroit to an Irish mother who ran a rooming house, and a father, whom he never knew, of mixed Sicilian, Ethiopean, French, Italian and Moorish roots, on September 24, 1913. He once characterized himself in an interview as “three-eighths Negro“, claiming pride in his racial heritage during a period when many other light-skinned black performers were attempting “to pass” as all-white in an effort to broaden their commercial appeal. In marked contrast, Jeffries used make-up to darken his skin—in order to pursue a career in jazz and to be seen as employable by the leading all-black musical ensembles of the day.

 Yet, much later in his career, Jeffries would assume the identify of a white citizen for economic or highly personal reasons. Jet reported that Jeffries identified himself as White and stated his “real” name as “Herbert Jeffrey Ball” on an application in order to marry Tempest Storm in 1959. Jeffries told the reporter for Jet:

“… I’m not passing, I never have, I never will. For all these years I’ve been wavering about the color question on the blanks. Suddenly I decided to fill in the blank the way I look and feel.

Look at my blue eyes, look at my brown hair, look at my color. What color do you see?” he demand to know. “My mother was 100 per cent white,” Jeffries said, his blue eyes glinting in the New York sun. “My father is Portuguese, Spanish, American Indian, and Negro. How in the hell can I identify myself as one race or another?”

 

A 2007 documentary short describes Jeffries as “assuming the identity of a man of color” early in his career. He is shown in Black/White & All That Jazz explaining that he was inspired by New Orleans-born musician Louis Armstrong to say falsely, at a job interview in Chicago, that he was “a creole from Louisiana” when he was of Irish and Sicilian heritage, among other ethnic backgrounds.

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Black White and all that Jazz.mov

 

Uploaded on Feb 19, 2011

Jazz singer and actor Herb Jeffries is still going strong in his 8th decade as a performer. The profile of him took honors in the 2007 My Hero Film Festival, produced by Betty Bailey and Carol Lynde.

 

 

 

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In 2007, while assembling material for the producers of a documentary film about him (A Colored Life), Jeffries found his birth certificate; this reminded him that he actually was born in 1913 and that he had misrepresented his age after he left home to look for a job. His four marriages (including one to exotic dancer Tempest Storm) produced five children. He appeared at jazz festivals and events benefiting autism and other developmental problems and lectured at colleges and universities. He supported music education in schools.

In June 2010, aged 96, Jeffries performed to raise funds for the Oceanside (California) Unified School District’s music program, accompanied by the Big Band Jazz Hall of Fame Orchestra under the direction of clarinetist Tad Calcara. This benefit concert was his second (the previous concert was in 2001).

A Colored Life: The Herb Jeffries Story

 

Uploaded on Sep 16, 2010

On a project I’ve been working on at AMS Pictures, http://op.amspictures.com A Colored Life: The Herb Jeffries Story is an honest, entertaining, and often humorous look at a charismatic personality who used his light complexion to survive–and thrive–in both the black and white worlds.

Available for U.S. and international distribution
60 Minutes — HD

 

 

 

Jeffries (second from left) watches as wife Tempest Storm and film producer Leroy Griffith (sitting) sign a film contract for Mundo depravados (1967).

Jeffries (second from left) watches as wife Tempest Storm and film producer Leroy Griffith (sitting) sign a film contract for Mundo depravados (1967).

Career

A jazz and popular singer, he starred as a singing cowboy in several all-black Western films, in which he sang his own western compositions. Jeffries obtained financing for the first black western film and hired Spencer Williams to appear with him. In addition to starring in the film, he sang and performed his own stunts as cowboy “Bob Blake”. He began his career working with Erskine Tate and his Vendome Orchestra when he moved to Chicago from Detroit at the urging of Louis Armstrong. His break came during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair—Century of Progress Exposition singing with the Earl Hines Orchestra on Hines’ national broadcasts live from theGrand Terrace Cafe. His first recordings were with Hines in 1934, including “Just to be in Carolina”. He then recorded with Duke Ellington from 1940 to 1942. His recording of “Flamingo” (1940) with Ellington was a best seller in its day. He was replaced in the Ellington band by Al Hibbler in 1943.

Jeffries (second from right) with cinematographer Manuel Conde, Miami Beach attorney Ben Cohen, and director Leroy Griffith on the set of Mundo depravados (1967).

Jeffries (second from right) with cinematographer Manuel Conde, Miami Beach attorney Ben Cohen, and director Leroy Griffith on the set of Mundo depravados (1967).

Playing a singing cowboy in low-budget films, Jeffries became known as the “Bronze Buckaroo” by his fans. In a time of American racial segregation, such “race movies” played mostly in theaters catering to African-American audiences. The films, now available on video, include Harlem on the PrairieThe Bronze BuckarooHarlem Rides the Range and Two-Gun Man from Harlem. Jeffries went on to make other films, starring with Angie Dickinson in Calypso Joe (1957). He later directed and produced Mundo depravados, a cult film starring his wife, Tempest Storm. In 1968, Jeffries appeared in the long-running western TV series The Virginian playing a gunslinger who intimidated the town. At the age of 81, he recorded a Nashville album of songs on the Warner Western label in 1995 entitled The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again).

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Honors

For his contributions to the motion-picture industry, Jeffries has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6672 Hollywood Boulevard. In 2004 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A restaurant in Idyllwild, Cafe Aroma, has a room named for him. In 1998 a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, CaliforniaWalk of Stars was dedicated to him.

Personal life

He lived in Wichita, Kansas and turned 100 on September 24, 2013. He died of heart failure at a California hospital on May 25, 2014.

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Herb Jeffries 100th Birthday! Interview about Joining Earl Hines in 1933

 

Published on Sep 8, 2013

It’s vocal star HERB JEFFRIES 100th Birthday this month! You are invited to his birthday party gala in Apple Valley, CA on Sep 28-29, 2013.

 

 

As part of Herb Jeffries’ 100th Birthday Celebration this month – I am presenting highlights from our conversations regarding his extraordinary life. In this segment we hear about Herb Jeffries joining Jazz piano master Earl Hines and his Orchestra in Chicago back in 1933. Earl “Fatha” Hines and his band were at the Grand Terrace in Chicago.

 

 

The Grand Terrace was a Chicago version of Harlem’s Cotton Club in New York City. Earl Hines broadcasted live each night on the radio across the nation. This was great exposure for the 20 year old Herb Jeffries who was now able to delight the world with his wonderful voice as millions tuned in to hear him live from the Grand Terrace in Chicago!

 

 

 

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Herb Jeffries dies at 100; Hollywood’s first black singing cowboy

 

From The LA Times:

 

rb Jeffries, who sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra during the Swing Era and made movie history in the 1930s as “The Bronze Buckaroo,” the silver screen’s first black singing cowboy, has died. He was 100.

Jeffries died of heart failure Sunday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, said Raymond Strait, who had been working with Jeffries on his autobiography. Jeffries had been in declining health for some time.

Known for his rich baritone and sensitive phrasing, Jeffries was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the early 1940s when he scored his biggest hit with “Flamingo,” which sold in the millions and became his signature tune.

“Jeffries’ version of ‘Flamingo’ with Duke Ellington was, and is, a jazz classic,” music critic Don Heckman told The Times in 2010. “Jeffries’ rich-toned ballad style resonated in the work of such male jazz singers as Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams and even Sammy Davis Jr. for decades after the chart-breaking success of his ‘Flamingo.'”

As the African American answer to Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other white singing cowboys, Jeffries made a handful of low-budget westerns in the ’30s.

They had titles such as “Harlem Rides the Range” and “The Bronze Buckaroo” and featured the tall, handsome, wavy-haired singer with a Gable-esque mustache as a dashing, white-hatted good guy in a black western outfit and riding a white horse named Stardusk.

The idea to make movie westerns with all-black casts was Jeffries’.

“Little children of dark skin — not just Negroes, but Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, everybody of color — had no heroes in the movies,” he told The Times in 1998. “I was so glad to give them something to identify with.”

He was born Umberto Valentino in Detroit on Sept. 24, 1913.

“My mother was Irish, my father was Sicilian, and one of my great-grandparents was Ethiopian,” Jeffries, who took his stepfather’s last name, told the Oklahoman in 2004. “So I’m an Italian-looking mongrel with a percentage of Ethiopian blood, which enabled me to get work with black orchestras.”

He began singing locally as a teenager before heading to Chicago, where he started touring as a singer with Earl “Fatha” Hines. In the deep South, he was struck by the number of black movie audiences viewing white cowboy pictures.

Realizing the size of the potential market, he talked Jed Buell, a white, independent B-movie producer in Hollywood, into helping out.

But finding an African American who could ride, sing, and act was difficult — until the tall, broad-shouldered Jeffries, who learned to ride on his grandfather’s dairy farm in Michigan, nominated himself.

“No way. They’ll never buy you; you’re not black enough,” the light-skinned Jeffries remembered Buell saying. Jeffries said Buell finally agreed to let him play the part but insisted that Jeffries wear makeup to darken his skin.

“Harlem on the Prairie,” billed as “the first all-Negro musical western,” was released in 1937. Among the all-black cast members were Spencer Williams, who later portrayed Andy on “Amos ‘n’ Andy” on television, and comedian Mantan Moreland, who provided comic relief.

Jeffries earned $5,000 for the film, which was shot at a dude ranch near Victorville in five days.

Each of the films that followed were produced just as fast. In later years, Jeffries would jokingly refer to them as “C-movies.” But he took great pride in them.

“To say I was the first black singing cowboy on the face of this earth is a great satisfaction,” he told American Visions in 1997.

In an era when black actors typically played subservient roles on screen, Jeffries stood out.

“Herb was a sex symbol,” New York University film professor Donald Bogle, author of “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks,” a history of black films, told The Times in 2003. “With his wavy hair and Clark Gable mustache, he might have been a different kind of star had America been a different kind of place.”

Three more musical westerns starring Jeffries were released over the next two years, “Two-Gun Man from Harlem,” “The Bronze Buckaroo” and “Harlem Rides the Range.”

Jeffries cashed in on his fame by making stage appearances with the Four Tones, his movie backup singers.

Touring in a Cadillac with steer horns on the front and his name in gold rope on the side, he’d do rope tricks, spin his six-shooters and sing.

While promoting his final film in Detroit in 1939, Jeffries showed up at a performance by the Duke Ellington Orchestra and was invited to sing. Ellington later asked Jeffries to join his orchestra on tour.

Jeffries, who began singing with what has been described as a luscious tenor, followed the advice of Ellington’s composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn and lowered his range to what music critic Jonny Whiteside later called a “silken, lusty baritone.”

In addition to recording with Ellington, Jeffries appeared in Ellington’s legendary all-black musical revue “Jump for Joy” in 1941. The show, featuring a 60-member cast that also included Ivie Anderson, Joe Turner and newcomer Dorothy Dandridge, ran for 12 weeks at the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Drafted into the Army during World War II, Jeffries sang in a Special Services company entertaining troops. After the war, he had a number of hit records, including “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” and “Basin Street Blues.”

By the early ’50s, he had moved to France and opened a popular jazz club in Paris called the Flamingo and another club in southern France. He continued to perform both in Europe and the United States and played the title role in the 1957 film “Calypso Joe,” costarring Angie Dickinson.

He returned to the U.S. in the 1960s, settling in the Los Angeles area, and made guest appearances on a number of television series over the next two decades.

In 1992, a tribute to the singing cowboys at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum — along with the discovery of copies of several of Jeffries’ long-lost cowboy pictures in a cellar in Texas — triggered a resurgence of interest in his movie career.

In addition to being rediscovered by the mainstream media for his role in breaking Hollywood race barriers on screen in the ’30s, Jeffries was featured in a segment of Turner Broadcasting’s “The Untold West” and scenes from his westerns appeared in Mario Van Peebles’ 1993 movie “Posse.”

The renewed interest led him to Nashville, where he recorded “The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again)” for the Warner Western label in 1995.

Jeffries, whose marriages included one to burlesque legend Tempest Storm, is survived by his fifth wife, Savannah; three daughters; and two sons.

Thank you The LA Times.

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Herb Jeffries – Don’t Spank de Baby

I’ll Never Know Why (1951) – Herb Jeffries

 

Duke Ellington – Flamingo (with Herb Jeffries) 1941

 

 

 

 

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R.I.P. “Bronze Buckaroo” Herb Jeffries, First Black Singing Cowboy

 

Jazz singer and actor Herb Jeffries, the first black singing cowboy to grace Hollywood screens, died of heart failure today in West Hills, CA, reports the LA Times. He was 100.  Below are two episodes of his work.

 

The Bronze Buckaroo (1939) Westerns Full Movies English

 

Published on Feb 14, 2014

Bob Blake and his boys arrive at Joe Jackson’s ranch to find him missing. While Slim cheats Dusty out of his money using ventriloquism and marked cards.

 

 

 

Harlem Rides The Range (1939)

 

Published on Mar 29, 2012

Bob Blake (Herb Jeffries) and his sidekick Rusty (Lucius Brooks) are two cowboys riding across the countryside in search of adventure. They come across a ranch where it appears a murder has taken place but they find the victim of the crime, Jim Dennison (Leonard Christmas), still alive. Dennison is hiding in fear of his life after what had taken place at the ranch. Bob sees a picture of the rancher’s daughter Margaret (Artie Young) and falls in love at first sight; he cannot stop talking about how beautiful the girl in the picture is. Bob drops a glove when he leaves the ranch, which causes problems later.

 

 

 

Jeffries was born Umberto Alexander Valentino in 1913 to an Irish mother and a father of Sicilian, Ethiopean, French, Italian and Moorish descent. A singer with the Duke Ellington band and other pop orchestras in the 1940s, the blue-eyed Jeffries embraced his mixed heritage and played up his African-American roots. He made his screen debut in 1937′s Harlem on the Prairie, the first of many “sepia movies” he would star in aimed at black audiences.

 

 

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In 1939′s The Bronze Buckaroo he warbled tunes like “I’m a Happy Cowboy” and established himself as Hollywood’s black Gene Autry. He also starred in low-budget WesternsHarlem Rides The Range andTwo-Gun Man From Harlem, and starred opposite Angie Dickinson in 1957′s musical romance Calypso Joe. Television credits include runs on the Hanna-Barbera animated football sitcom Where’s Huddles? and multiple guest roles on Hawaii Five-O. Jeffries played himself in the 1996 comedy Western The Cherokee Kid. He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2004.

 

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Black History Moment: Charles “Charlie” “Bird” Parker, Jr.


 

By Jueseppi B.

 

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Charles “Charlie” Parker, Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), also known as “Yardbird”and “Bird”, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.”

 

Parker acquired the nickname “Yardbird” early in his career and the shortened form, “Bird”, which continued to be used for the rest of his life, inspired the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as “Yardbird Suite“, “Ornithology“, “Bird Gets the Worm“, and “Bird of Paradise.”

 

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop,a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and improvisation. Parker introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. Many Parker recordings demonstrate his virtuoso playing style and complex melodic lines, sometimes combining jazz with other musical genres, including bluesLatin, and classical.

 

Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than an entertainer.

 

 

 

Background information
Birth name Charles Parker, Jr.
Also known as Bird, Yardbird,
Zoizeau (in France)
Born August 29, 1920
Kansas CityKansas,

United States

Died March 12, 1955 (aged 34)
New York CityNew York,

United States

Genres Jazzbebop
Occupations Saxophonistcomposer
Instruments Alto saxophone,

tenor saxophone

Years active 1937–1955
Labels SavoyDialVerve
Associated acts Miles DavisMax Roach
Website www.cmgww.com/

music/parker/

Notable instruments
BuescherConnKing and Grafton

alto saxophones

 

 

 

Charlie_Parker_and_strings_at_Birdland_1951_Marcel_Fleiss_Large_AG

 

 

 

Childhood

Charlie Parker was born in Kansas CityKansas, and raised in Kansas CityMissouri, the only child of Charles and Addie Parker. Parker attended Lincoln High School. He enrolled in September 1934 and withdrew in December 1935, just before joining the local Musicians Union.

 

Parker began playing the saxophone at age 11, and at age 14 joined his school’s band using a rented school instrument. His father, Charles, was often absent but provided some musical influence; he was a pianist, dancer and singer on the T.O.B.A. circuit. He later became a Pullman waiter or chef on the railways. Parker’s mother Addie worked nights at the local Western Union office. His biggest influence at that time was a young trombone player who taught him the basics of improvisation.

 

 

Early career

In the late 1930’s Parker began to practice diligently. During this period he mastered improvisation and developed some of the ideas that led to bebop. In an interview with Paul Desmond, he said that he spent 3–4 years practicing up to 15 hours a day.

 

Bands led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten undoubtedly influenced Parker. He played with local bands in jazz clubs around Kansas City, Missouri, where he perfected his technique, with the assistance of Buster Smith, whose dynamic transitions to double and triple time influenced Parker’s developing style.

 

In 1938, Parker joined pianist Jay McShann‘s territory band. The band toured nightclubs and other venues of the southwest, as well as Chicago and New York City. Parker made his professional recording debut with McShann’s band.

 

As a teenager, Parker developed a morphine addiction while in the hospital, after an automobile accident, and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He continued using heroin throughout his life, which ultimately contributed to his death.

 

 

 

435px-Charlie_Parker,_Tommy_Potter,_Miles_Davis,_Max_Roach_(Gottlieb_06941)

Charlie Parker with Tommy PotterMax Roach and Miles Davis at Three Deuces, New York, NY

 

 

 

New York City

In 1939 Parker moved to New York City, to pursue a career in music. He held several other jobs as well. He worked for nine dollars a week as a dishwasher at Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, where pianist Art Tatum performed.

 

In 1942 Parker left McShann’s band and played with Earl Hines for one year, whose band included Dizzy Gillespie, who later played with Parker as a duo. Unfortunately, this period is virtually undocumented, due to the strike of 1942–1943 by the American Federation of Musicians, during which time few recordings were made. Parker joined a group of young musicians, and played in after-hours clubs in Harlem, such as Clark Monroe’s Uptown House and Minton’s Playhouse. These young iconoclasts included Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian, and drummer Kenny Clarke. The beboppers’ attitude was summed up in a famous quotation attributed to Monk by Mary Lou Williams: “We wanted a music that they couldn’t play” – “they” being the white bandleaders who had usurped and profited from swing music. The group played in venues on 52nd Street, including Three Deuces and The Onyx. While in New York City, Parker studied with his music teacher, Maury Deutsch.

 

 

The Original Bird – The Best Of Charlie Parker 1944 – 1949

 

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and improvisation. Parker introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. Many Parker recordings demonstrate virtuosic technique and complex melodic lines, sometimes combining jazz with other musical genres, including blues, Latin, and classical.

 

 

 

 

 

Bebop

According to an interview Parker gave in the 1950’s, one night in 1939, he was playing “Cherokee” in a jam session with guitarist William “Biddy” Fleet when he hit upon a method for developing his solos that enabled one of his main musical innovations. He realized that the twelve tones of the chromatic scale can lead melodically to any key, breaking some of the confines of simpler jazz soloing.

 

Early in its development, this new type of jazz was rejected by many of the established, traditional jazz musicians who disdained their younger counterparts. The beboppers responded by calling these traditionalists “moldy figs“. However, some musicians, such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman, were more positive about its development, and participated in jam sessions and recording dates in the new approach with its adherents.

 

Because of the two-year Musicians’ Union ban of all commercial recordings from 1942 to 1944, much of bebop’s early development was not captured for posterity. As a result, it gained limited radio exposure. Bebop musicians had a difficult time gaining widespread recognition. It was not until 1945, when the recording ban was lifted, that Parker’s collaborations with Dizzy GillespieMax RoachBud Powell and others had a substantial effect on the jazz world. One of their first (and greatest) small-group performances together was rediscovered and issued in 2005: a concert in New York’s Town Hall on June 22, 1945. Bebop soon gained wider appeal among musicians and fans alike.

 

On November 26, 1945, Parker led a record date for the Savoy label, marketed as the “greatest Jazz session ever.” Recording as Charlie Parker’s Reboppers, Parker enlisted such sidemen as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis on trumpet, Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. The tracks recorded during this session include “Ko-Ko“, “Billie’s Bounce” and “Now’s the Time“.

 

Shortly afterwards, the Parker/Gillespie band traveled to an unsuccessful engagement at Billy Berg‘s club in Los Angeles. Most of the group returned to New York, but Parker remained in California, cashing in his return ticket to buy heroin. He experienced great hardship in California, eventually being committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a six-month period.

 

 

Addiction

Parker’s chronic addiction to heroin caused him to miss gigs and lose work. He frequently resorted to busking on the streets, receiving loans from fellow musicians and admirers, and pawning his saxophones for drug money. Heroin use was rampant in the jazz scene and the drug could be acquired easily.

 

Although he produced many brilliant recordings during this period, Parker’s behavior became increasingly erratic. Heroin was difficult to obtain when he moved to California, where the drug was less abundant, and Parker began to drink heavily to compensate for it. A recording for the Dial label from July 29, 1946, provides evidence of his condition. Prior to this session, Parker drank a quart of whiskey. According to the liner notes of Charlie Parker on Dial Volume 1, Parker missed most of the first two bars of his first chorus on the track, “Max Making Wax.” When he finally did come in, he swayed wildly and once spun all the way around, away from his microphone.

 

On the next tune, “Lover Man“, producer Ross Russell physically supported Parker. On “Bebop” (the final track Parker recorded that evening) he begins a solo with a solid first eight bars. On his second eight bars, however, Parker begins to struggle, and a desperate Howard McGhee, the trumpeter on this session, shouts, “Blow!” at Parker. Charles Mingus considered this version of “Lover Man” to be among Parker’s greatest recordings, despite its flaws. Nevertheless, Parker hated the recording and never forgave Ross Russell for releasing it. He re-recorded the tune in 1951 for Verve.

 

When Parker was released from the hospital, he was clean and healthy, and proceeded to do some of the best playing and recording of his career. Before leaving California, he recorded “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”, in reference to his hospital stay. He returned to New York, resumed his addiction to heroin and recorded dozens of sides for the Savoy and Dial labels, which remain some of the high points of his recorded output. Many of these were with his so-called “classic quintet” including trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Max Roach.

 

 

 

Charlie Parker with Strings

A longstanding desire of Parker’s was to perform with a string section. He was a keen student of classical music, and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as Third Stream, a new kind of music, incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards.

 

On November 30, 1949, Norman Granz arranged for Parker to record an album of ballads with a mixed group of jazz and chamber orchestra musicians. Six master takes from this session comprised the album Charlie Parker with Strings: “Just Friends“, “Everything Happens to Me“, “April in Paris“, “Summertime“, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was“, and “If I Should Lose You“. The sound of these recordings is rare in Parker’s catalog. Parker’s improvisations are, in comparison to his usual work, more distilled and economical. His tone is darker and softer than on his small-group recordings, and the majority of his lines are beautiful embellishments on the original melodies rather than harmonically based improvisations.

 

 

 

Charlie Parker – Summertime (Jazz Instrumental)

 

 

 

These are among the few recordings Parker made during a brief period when he was able to control his heroin habit, and his sobriety and clarity of mind are evident in his playing. Parker stated that, of his own records, Bird With Strings was his favorite. Although using classical music instrumentation with jazz musicians was not entirely original, this was the first major work where a composer of bebop was matched with a string orchestra.

 

 

 

Jazz at Massey Hall

In 1953, Parker performed at Massey Hall in TorontoCanada, joined by Gillespie, Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Unfortunately, the concert clashed with a televised heavyweight boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, so was poorly attended. Mingus recorded the concert, resulting in the album Jazz at Massey Hall. At this concert, he played a plastic Grafton saxophone. At this point in his career he was experimenting with new sounds and materials. Parker himself explained the purpose of the plastic saxophone in a May 9, 1953 broadcast from Birdland and does so again in subsequent May 1953 broadcast.

 

Parker is known to have played several saxophones, including the Conn 6M, The Martin Handicraft and Selmer Model 22. Parker is also known to have performed with a King “Super 20″ saxophone. Parker’s King Super 20 saxophone was made specially for him in 1947.

 

 

Death

 

Parker

 

 

 

Parker died in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City while watching The Dorsey Brothers‘ Stage Show on television. The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack. The coroner who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker’s 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age.

 

Parker had been living since 1950 with Chan Richardson, the mother of his son Baird and his daughter Pree (who died as an infant of cystic fibrosis). He considered Chan his wife; however he never formally married her, nor did he divorce his previous wife, Doris (whom he had married in 1948). This complicated the settling of Parker’s inheritance and would ultimately serve to frustrate his wish to be quietly interred in New York City.

 

It was well known that Parker never wanted to return to Kansas City, even in death. Parker had told Chan that he did not want to be buried in the city of his birth; that New York was his home. Dizzy Gillespie paid for the funeral arrangements and organized a lying-in-state, a Harlem procession officiated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., as well as a memorial concert, before Parker’s body was flown back to Missouri, in accordance with his mother’s wishes. Parker’s widow criticized Parker’s family for giving him a Christian funeral even though they knew he was a confirmed atheist. Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit.

 

Parker’s estate is managed by CMG Worldwide.

 

 

Music

Parker’s style of composition involved interpolation of original melodies over pre-existing jazz forms and standards, a practice still common in jazz today. Examples include “Ornithology” (“How High The Moon“) and “Yardbird Suite“, the vocal version of which is called “What Price Love“, with lyrics by Parker. The practice was not uncommon prior to bebop; however, it became a signature of the movement as artists began to move away from arranging popular standards and compose their own material.

 

While tunes such as “Now’s The Time,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Au Privave,” “Barbados,” “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” “Bloomdido,” and “Cool Blues” were based on conventional twelve-bar blues changes, Parker also created a unique version of the 12-bar blues for tunes such as “Blues for Alice“, “Laird Baird”, and “Si Si”. These unique chords are known popularly as “Bird Changes“. Like his solos, some of his compositions are characterized by long, complex melodic lines and a minimum of repetition although he did employ the use of repetition in some tunes, most notably “Now’s The Time”.

 

Parker contributed greatly to the modern jazz solo, one in which triplets and pick-up notes were used in unorthodox ways to lead into chord tones, affording the soloist with more freedom to use passing tones, which soloists previously avoided. Parker was admired for his unique style of phrasing and innovative use of rhythm. Via his recordings and the popularity of the posthumously published Charlie Parker Omnibook, Parker’s uniquely identifiable style dominated jazz for many years to come.

 

 

Jazz The Charlie Parker Sessions (1950)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bird Lives” sculpture by Robert Graham in Kansas City, Missouri

 

 

 

Musical tributes

 

  • Lennie Tristano‘s overdubbed solo piano piece “Requiem” was recorded in tribute to Parker shortly after his death.
  • Street musician Moondog wrote his famous “Bird’s Lament” in his memory.
  • The Californian ensemble Supersax harmonized many of Parker’s improvisations for a five-piece saxophone section
  • Saxophonist Phil Woods recorded a tribute concert for Parker
  • Weather Report‘s jazz fusion track and highly acclaimed big band standard “Birdland“, from the Heavy Weather album (1977), was a dedication by bandleader Joe Zawinul to both Charlie Parker and the New York 52nd Street club itself
  • In 2003 various artists including Serj Tankian and Dan the Automator put out Bird Up: The Charlie Parker Remix Project. This album created new songs by remixing Charlie Parker’s originals.
  • The biographical song “Parker’s Band” was recorded by Steely Dan on its 1974 album Pretzel Logic.
  • The avant-garde trombonist George Lewis recorded Homage to Charles Parker (1979)
  • Sparks released the song “(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing” on their 1994 album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  • Duane Allman devised a unique slide guitar technique that enabled him to mimic the sounds of chirping birds, stating in at least one interview that this was his tribute to Parker.
  • The Only World by poet Lynda Hull includes the poem “Ornithology” about Charlie Parker.
  • Refused included live recordings of Parker at the end of the song “Liberation Frequency” and transitioned it into “The Deadly Rhythm” on the album The Shape of Punk to Come.

 

 

 

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Charlie Parker Residence

From 1950 to 1954, Parker and his common-law wife, Chan Richardson, lived in the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan‘s East Village. The Gothic Revival building, which was built c.1849, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, and was designated a New York City landmark in 1999. Avenue B, between East 7th and 10th Streets, was renamed Charlie Parker Place in 1992.

 

 

 

Other tributes

  • The 1957 story “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin features a jazz/blues playing virtuoso who names Bird as the “greatest” jazz musician, whose style he hopes to emulate.
  • In 1949, the New York night club Birdland was named in his honor. Three years later, George Shearing wrote “Lullaby of Birdland“, named for both Parker and the nightclub.
  • A memorial to Parker was dedicated in 1999 in Kansas City at 17th Terrace and The Paseo, near the American Jazz Museum located at 18th and Vine, featuring a 10-foot (3 m) tall bronze head sculpted by Robert Graham.
  • The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is a free two-day music festival that takes place every summer on the last weekend of August in Manhattan, New York City, at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem and Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side, sponsored by the non-profit organization City Parks Foundation. The festival marked its 17th anniversary in 2009.
  • In one of his most famous short story collections, Las armas secretas (The Secret Weapons), Julio Cortázar dedicated “El perseguidor” (“The Pursuer”) to the memory of Charlie Parker. This piece examines the last days of Johnny, a drug-addict saxophonist, through the eyes of Bruno, his biographer. Some qualify this story as one of Cortazar’s masterpieces in the genre.
  • A biographical film called Bird, starring Forest Whitaker as Parker and directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in 1988.
  • In 1984, legendary modern dance choreographer Alvin Ailey created the piece For Bird – With Love in honor of Parker. The piece chronicles his life, from his early career to his failing health.
  • In 2005, the Selmer Paris saxophone manufacturer commissioned a special “Tribute to Bird” alto saxophone, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Charlie Parker (1955–2005).
  • Parker’s performances of “I Remember You” and “Parker’s Mood” (recorded for the Savoy label in 1948, with the Charlie Parker All Stars, comprising Parker on alto sax, Miles Davis on trumpet, John Lewis on piano, Curley Russell on bass, and Max Roach on drums) were selected by Harold Bloom for inclusion on his shortlist of the “twentieth-century American Sublime”, the greatest works of American art produced in the 20th century. A vocalese version of “Parker’s Mood” was a popular success for King Pleasure.
  • The Oris Watch Company created a limited edition timepiece in Charlie Parker’s name. The watch features the word “bird” at the 4 o’clock hour, in honor of Parker’s nickname and signifying “Jazz, until 4 in the morning”.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat created many pieces to honour Charlie Parker, including Charles the FirstCPRKR and Discography I.
  • In 1995, Live Bird, a one-man play about Charlie Parker, written and performed by actor/saxophonist Jeff Robinson, made its premier at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, wrote a children’s book entitled Ode to a High Flying Bird as a tribute to Parker. Watts has cited Parker as a major influence in his life as a young man learning to play jazz.

 

 

Charlie Parker Quintet at Birdland – Ornithology

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Parker Live Jam Session 1952 ~ Scrapple From The Apple

 

 

 

 

Recorded: Howard Theater, Washington, DC October 18, 1952

Personnel:
Charlie Parker – Alto Sax
Charlie Byrd – Guitar
Bill Shanahan – Piano
Merton Oliver – Bass
Don Lamond – Drums
Unknown – Bongos

 

 

 

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