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Charlie Parker: “Dexterity” and “Yardbird Suite”

The saga of Charlie Parker is well known and told in many places, including Wikipedia and Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary. Genius, drugs, alcohol and early death.

Bebop is a lot like advanced physics: It is hard for lay people to even understand what practitioners are trying to do. It’s demanding and not to everyone’s taste because it doesn’t use melody in the way that most of us do. This page comes reasonably close to explaining by presenting quotes by and about Parker. In this example, note Parker’s transition from the technical to the emotional:

l’d been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used all the time at the time, and I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else. I could hear it sometimes but I couldn’t play it. … I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes I could play the thing I’d been hearing. I came alive.

The middle of the twentieth century was a confusing and depressing time. The chaos and dislocation of a world that had experienced nothing but death and dying for 50 years (the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 that killed 50 to 120 million people is sometimes forgotten) is reflected in the art that was produced, including bebop. That is not to say that bebop is inherently depressing or depressed. It means that it reflected a world in which pretty melodies existed, but weren’t the whole ballgame.

Here are “Hot House” (with Dizzy Gillepsie), “Celebrity” and “52nd Street Theme” (with great old photos of New York City) Below is the incredible “Yardbird Suite.”

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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