Thursday, 5 February 2009


Built in 1849, this Gothic Revival-style brownstone rowhouse at 151, Avenue B at 10th Street, was home to the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (Bird) from 1950-1954. Notable details include the pointed entranceway with clustered colonettes, the prominent hood molding and a refoil relief below the projecting box cornice.

With Chan Richardson and their three children, Parker occupied the ground floor at the height of his career, having achieved considerable success and worldwide renown as the co-founder of bebop, the modern jazz style that he and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie created in New York City in the mid 1940's.
Parker enjoyed international fame while living here, performing with large and small ensembles, as well as with Latin big bands and string sections. Avenue B (between 7th and 10th Streets - along Tompkins Square Park) was renamed Charlie Parker Place (see below) in 1992 and since 1993 the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is held annually in the park to celebrate Bird's birthday (August 29th) and his massive contribution to 20th century music. He died when he was only 34, his death hastened by his drug and alcohol abuse.

In his relatively short life he had also become an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat generation, personifying the conception of the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than just a popular entertainer. His style - from a rhythmic, harmonic and soloing perspective - influenced countless peers on every instrument. Like Louis Armstrong before him, Parker changed the sound of jazz music forever.
There can be no better illustration of Bird's profound effect on the evolution of jazz music than these words from the 1989 autobiography of Miles Davies - widely considered one of the most influential musicians of his generation:-
"During 1945, we used to go down almost every night to catch Diz and Bird wherever they were playing. We felt that if we missed hearing them play, we were missing something important. Man, the shit they were playing and doing was going down so fast, you just had to be there in person to catch it."

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