Charlie Parker (alto saxophone; b. 1920 - d. 1955)
Along with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker is the reason why we love jazz. Charlie Parker was responsible for creating the foundation for many musicians (not just other saxophone players) to follow. The sheer power, beauty and swift ability of his improvisation is what everyone looks to achieve as a musician, why people go to concerts and why we buy an album. His skill was the result of years of study and hard work but he is arguably the godfather of bebop.
Born in Kansas City, Charlie Parker originally spent time playing blues and R&B before switching to jazz in his teens. After moving to New York he soon began working with Dizzy Gillespie (the partnership known to many as "Diz and Bird"). His life was filled with ups and downs all fueled by drugs (mainly heroin) and other struggles with life. But this is also what fueled his creative process and for that we have a wealth of material to be thankful for and to explore. Definitely an artist from whom everyone should at have at least one CD in their collection. If you go online or to a record store you will find a plethora of music from this legend.
This entry is really meant for those who may not have a Charlie Parker album in your collection. Let me narrow it down with a little laser sharp vision. I would recommend The Best of Savoy & Dial Studio Recordings (Savoy Jazz). This collection is pretty readily available online and in-stores. The music is literally the most essential of Charlie Parker's material and many of the tracks will be familiar even to those of you who are not jazz fans such as "Scrapple From The Apple", "Orinthology" and "Yardbird Suite". Charlie Parker's performances with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie are well documented and can be found on a variety of other collections. The Best of Savoy & Dial Studio Recordings focuses on his material and while you listen you will realize you are in the presence of greatness.
Charlie Parker's influence can be felt on almost every artist in jazz in some form of another. And as one more point of reverence, one of Clint Eastwood's early production works was the film Bird which pays tribute to the legend. Not the greatest film but Eastwood is a big jazz aficionado so he deserves credit for trying.
I hope everyone has a chance to buy a Charlie Parker album at some point in their lives - you will have the opportunity to experience the Greatest right in your own room. This is why we love jazz.