THE ART OF JAZZ TRUMPET
by JOHN MCNEIL
Published by: GERARD and SARZIN PUBLISHING CO.
Charlie Parker: The rhythmic revolution
Charlie Parker is generally acknowledged to be the fountainhead of contemporary jazz. Although he was a saxophonist, he had a profound effect on trumpeters. One of Parker's innovations was the abandonment of the 12/8, downbeat-oriented style of the swing era and the adoption of an even eighth-note approach with accents primarily on the upbeats. For example, a swing era approach to an eighth-note line would produce something like this:
Charlie Parker's approach to the same line would produce something like this:
Actually, Bird would probably have changed the line itself to something like this:
Rhythmically, Charlie Parker's approach to improvisation seems at first glance to have arisen out of nowhere. On early records with his contemporaries and even with players like Lester Young and Willie Smith who were supposedly his main influences, Bird's playing has little rhythmic relationship to the other soloists. However, I subscribe to a theory which holds that Charlie Parker's main rhythmic influence was none other than Louis Armstrong. Consider this: Louis' approach to an eighth-note line was primarily to play the notes evenly. He occasionally played with a 12/8 feel, but his overall rhythmic feel was oriented toward even eighths. In this respect, Louis' approach hearkened back to the ragtime pianists of his boyhood in New Orleans. Charlie Parker frequently quoted from Louis Armstrong's solos. In at least one case, Bird played an entire blues chorus consisting of Louis' solo on "West End Blues."
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