Charlie Parker

Below is a transcript of a 1954 radio interview with Charlie Parker. He is talking with fellow altoist Paul Desmond and announcer John McLellan.

PD: Another thing that’s been a major factor in your playing is this fantastic technique, that nobody’s quite equaled. I’ve always wondered about that, too … whether there was … whether that came behind practicing or whether that was just from playing, whether it evolved gradually.

CP: Well,you make it so hard for me to answer, you know, because I can’t see where there’s anything fantastic about it all. I put quite a bit of study into the horn, that’s true. In fact the neighbors threatened to ask my mother to move once when we were living out West. She said I was driving them crazy with the horn. I used to put in at least 11 — 11 to 15 hours a day.

PD: Yes, that’s what I wondered.

CP: That’s true, yes. I did that for overa period of 3 to 4 years.

PD: Oh, yeah. I guess that’s the answer.

CP: Well, that’s the facts anyway. (chuckle)

PD: I heard a record of yours a couple of months ago that somehow I’ve missed up to date, and I heard a little two-bar quote from the Klose book that was like an echo from home …[Desmond scats the quote.]

CP: Yeah, yeah. Well that was all done with books, you know. Naturally, it wasn’t done with mirrors, this time it was done with books.

PD: Well, that’s very reassuring to hear, because somehow I got the idea that you were just sort of born with that technique, and you never had to worry too much about it, about keeping it working.

JM: You know, I’m very glad that he’s bringing up this point because I think that a lot of young musicians tend to think that …

PD: Yeah, they do. They just go out …

JM: It isn’t necessary to do this.

PD: … and make those sessions and live the life, but they don’t put in that 11 hours a day with any of the books.

CP: Oh definitely, study is absolutely necessary, in all forms. It’s just like any talent that’s born within somebody, it’s like a good pair of shoes when you put a shine on it, you know. Like schooling brings out the polish of any talent that happens anywhere in the world. Einstein had schooling, but he has a definite genius, you know, within himself, schooling is one of the most wonderful things there’s ever been, you know.

JM: I’m glad to hear you say this.

CP: That’s absolutely right.

Read the rest of the interview at


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