"The Hymn" by Charlie Parker
Bebop compositions were built around the popular songs during the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's, specifically the music from broadway productions, the music composed by Tin Pan Alley song writers such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter. This presentation, however, will be looking at the broader definition of popular music, the music that has withstood the test of time such as traditional folk songs, classical compositions, gospel music, and even nursery rhymes.
Alto Saxophonist, Charlie Parker is one of the most important figures in the Bebop era, since he is credited with pioneering the Bebop style. In fact, Parker has some of the most peculiar and mythological stories attached to him name. For example, when Parker was 16 years old, he sat in with a touring band at the Reno Club in Kansas City. It was a special night because drummer Jo Jones was a member of the touring band, and was famous for his work with the Count Basie Band.The young Parker finally got his chance to play with the band and during his performance Jones threw a cymbal at Parker's head due to Parkers lack of experience. Its been said that Parker practiced countless hours the summer following this incident and during this time developed his musical style. Another story provides the details to the alto saxophonists nick name, "bird" or "yardbird." When Parker was a little order, and a little more experienced, he found himself working with Jay McShann's Band. While this band was on tour, the driver hit a chicken. Parker told the driver to stop the vehicle. Parker took the dead chicken and cook it that evening for dinner. After that, everyone called Parker "bird" or "yardbird" for the road kill he was so fond of.
One of "Birds" most distinctive musical qualities is his use of the blues. Trumpeter Clark Terry said this about the origins of Parker's composition "The Hymn:"
I recall it was a Sunday tradition for the women of the congregation in African-American churches, such as the one in my St. Louis neighborhood, to respond to the preacher’s sermons with sustained, hymn-like humming in harmony. I remember a serene, meditative piece Kansas City bandleader Jay McShann had in his repertoire, reflective of this improvised humming by the ladies of the congregation. The young Charlie Parker was a member of the McShann saxophone section at the time, and he took McShann’s melody at a much faster tempo to create his piece, “Hymn,” out of it."