Charlie Parker – The Bird

The centenary of Charlie Parker’s birth is nearly on us. He was born in Kansas City, Kansas on 29th August 1920. I had thought I might go to New York to catch some of the events to mark the date, but corona virus put paid to any such plans. His music has enriched my life. Many people feel the same way. Despite his problem with heroin addiction, there is something very beautiful in his music and, as I choose to believe, in his life too. Here is a poem inspired by a wonderful concert given by Sweet Chorus. Something in the phrasing of the long flowing lines of guitarist John Etheredge, called to mind Bird, and the debt so many musicians owed him.

CADENZA
for Sweet Chorus

At a concert
an intricate sinuous phrase
triggers a shiver in my neck
which travels the length of my spine.

Delicious;
and a surprising reminder
of my distant ancestors
because for them the sensation
would have signified something different;
fear,
pleasure perhaps,
most probably just cold and damp.

It is both old,
and to come full circle*,
as fresh as that musical shiver
with which Bird astonished New Yorkers
at Carnegie Hall
when he played the cadenza
right after the theme of
'A Night in Tunisia'.


  • full circle because the poem remembers two concerts, one in Churchill, North Somerset on 20th June 2009 by Sweet Chorus; the other in Carnegie Hall, New York on 29th September 1947 by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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