Who is Charlie Parker?

This article was written by Phineas Upham

When Charlie Parker moved with his parents to Kansas City in Missouri, he was about to be exposed to a lively center for gospel, jazz and blues. It was 1927 and he was seven years old at the time, only a few years before discovering his own prowess for music. Charlie began musical instruction in his teens, playing baritone for the school band. The alto saxophone was his instrument of choice by 15, which was a gift from his mother after his father left the family unexpectedly.

By 1935, Charlie had found a place in the Kansas City night club scene. He played with local jazz bands like Buster Professor Smith’s band and the pianist Jay McShann. It was with McShann that Parker would tour New York and Chicago. Parker remained in New York for a year long stint in various clubs before relocating to Chicago, where he was a regular for a brief period.

Parker then relocated permanently to New York, where he washed dishes by day to pay for his music career at night. There, he met the guitarist Biddy Fleet. Fleet helped Parker discover his signature style over the course of several jam sessions. After his father’s death, Charlie joined Harlan Leonard’s Rockets before reuniting with McShann. It was with McShann’s band that he earned the nickname “Bird,” as in Yard bird.

Parker, along with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk, was one of the founding members of bebop. His best recordings come from the 1940s, where he evolved and honed his “Cool Blues” style.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his LinedIn page.