Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4th in Jazz History: Two Charlies, Too Soon Departed

On March 4, 1941, "pre-bop" Jazz guitar legend Charlie Christian recorded (with the Benny Goodman Sextet) "Solo Flight," which reached the top of Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade and 20th from the top of Billboard's Hot 100 (Pop).  (A very helpful analysis of Christian's distinctive ideas, some from "Solo Flight," is here.) A couple of days less than a year later, Christian died of complications of tuberculosis (contracted in the 1930s), age 25.  If you have three minutes to spare, spend it on this, right now:

Exactly fourteen years later, March 4, 1955, at Birdland, the club named in his honor (and from which, ironically, he was once barred for lack of a cabaret license), Charlie Parker played in public for the last time.  He died eight days later at the Stanhope Hotel in Manhattan at the age of 34. ("The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis of the liver and had had a heart attack. Any one of the four ailments could have killed him." From the Wiki article.)  A moving reminiscence by Jackie McLean was my favorite part of this video clip: