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  • RESEARCH: Charlie Parker's Stepchildren

         Communal music creates different roles for individuals within a shared musical idea.  With this being said, we can assume that Charlie Parker was unsatisfied with his role within this idea.  I would not necessarily suggest that he consciously displayed malicious intent toward his People in the manner in which he cultivated of his talent.  But, whether he did so knowingly or subconsciously, he surely sought a position of novelty.  This statement is validated by all of the Charlie Parker imitators that continue to pop up to this day, still wanting to be seen as special, as novel.  

        Certainly, I see no harm in one's natural spirit coming through in their interpretation of a song.  But, that is not what Parker did.  Rather, he studied Euro-Classical ideologies and applied them to the music, which was already dealing with instruments and structures that were adopted or created out of scraps from the hog.  In comparison to this technical approach, which is one of the pitfalls of playing an external instrument, there is the voice, an internal instrument which is the most sincere presentation of the spirit.  Karlton Hester points out in his “Bigotry and the Afro-Centric Jazz Evolution” that Betty Carter's performances on 'The Audience with Betty Carter' or 'At the Village Vanguard' preserve her musical interaction with the village, rather than with an audience waiting to be catered to. Yet, on Charlie Parker's recordings, you hear very little call and response. For, there is little room between the virtuosity for communication to take place.

         I suppose that if Charlie Parker's lean towards the Euro-Classical is considered an invitation to infiltration, Bill Evans took him up on the offer. Surely, employing Bill Evans was a matter of 'taste' for Miles Davis, who boasted that he would hire green people if they could play. This 'taste' can most definitely be credited to his development under Charlie Parker and his relationship to Euro-Classical music, playing it extensively in his youth and even attending Julliard while in Parker's band. The conflict between Davis and Evans over the crediting of the overcelebrated composition entitled 'Blue In Green' is indicative of the larger problem at play here. Evans penned the 'melody' and perhaps the 'harmony' and feels entitled, though he admitted that the initial idea came from Davis. This conflict is cultural in nature. Writing things down signifies nothing within the context of the People's culture.  Ideas flow freely and endlessly.  But, within Citizen culture, transcription of a person's ideas is a valid transfer of ownership.

    We would see Bill Evans seldom hire 'black' musicians as he became more successful creatively and financially. We would also see his 'white' bandmates lauded for their help in the reconstruction of the People's music, removing all of the few remaining elements of 'Africa,' leaving nothing but Chamber music. Evans would become a model for a movement of European 'jazz' to be developed as legitimate music, rather than a lifeless music rank with the stench of extraction. When you listen to his 'great' group with Paul Motian and Scott Lafaro, it sounds like Chamber music, doesn't it?

    Needless to say, these musicians represent a turning point in the struggle.  The Citizenry's extraction process eventually evolved into a direct pipeline from our alienated elders to outsider children. As pretty and delicate as his playing may be, Bill Evans was an infiltrator of little more significance to the People than Mezz Mezzrow. I never hear the People's true musicians praise Bill Evans because his music does not resonate with them. Yet, various chamber orchestras memorialize him and corporate musicians speak very highly of his legacy. Bill Evans is Stephen Foster is Rudy Van Gelder is Bobby Caldwell is Eminem is Stevie Ray Vaughn...is Charlie Parker?