We began our Trusts and Estates blogging with an essay by a member of the Firm and colleague in our Trusts and Estates Department, Sally Donahue, on “The Human Touch.” One of the reasons we began our blogging was not just to be just another trusts and estates blog droning on and on about the latest case law but to give the reader a perspective on various general topics of trusts and estates that were readily understandable. With this entry, we expand our concept of the human touch. We introduce subjects that are of personal interest to our attorneys that might be “off topic” but that are, we hope, entertaining, informative, and indicative of whom we are as persons at Jaspan Schlesinger LLP. Today’s entry is along those lines.
Saturday, August 29, was the one hundredth birthday of an immortal genius of American classical music (as Dr. Billy Taylor referred to Jazz). Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City in 1920. Ask any listener of America’s one great contribution to world culture, Jazz, to name the top ten figures in Jazz history and all would agree to include Charlie Parker along with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, et al.
Along with pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Max Roach, Thelonious Monk, Charlie revolutionized music with the bebop movement when the Big Band era was floundering in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. The big bands were certainly not “floundering” for any lack of creativity or musical excellence on their part or any loss of America’s fondness for dancing. But due to the enormous costs of keeping a big band together and traveling, and an experimental restlessness on the part of many young artists, the music moved away from the dance rhythms of the big bands to the small ensembles that emphasized improvisation, experimentation with musical forms, and technical virtuosity. Charlie Parker was there at the beginning, a prime mover of a new art form who overcame criticism and misunderstanding from the music establishment as Albert Einstein did 50 years before from the science establishment.
Yes, today’s established giants were once revolutionaries in their own rights. Charlie Parker persisted in his work and changed music forever. He believed that music should be “freer” more open to improvisation and experimentation with tempos, harmonies, etc. Hence, the lightning-fast runs of bebop. While hardly dance music, bebop opened the scene to a huge variety of new modes of musical expression from the cool Jazz movement to modal Jazz to hard bop to free Jazz to fusion Jazz. It all began with Charlie Parker (and his great collaborators). The tradition lives on in a world-wide explosion of musical talent and (until the Covid 19 crisis) a wealth of musical venues in New York to make the City once again the capital of the music world. Alas, the return of the small Jazz clubs is a long way off, but one can follow the great work done by a modern master, Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center organization. Their continuing concerts are readily available on a variety of internet platforms and should be supported.
Charlie Parker’s death at 34 was a loss to the wide world of music comparable with the untimely deaths of other immortals like George Gershwin (37), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (35), Felix Mendelssohn (38), John Coltrane (40), Billie Holiday (44), Frederic Chopin (39).
The first and final word on Jazz always belongs rightfully to the one and only Louis Armstrong who said, “If you have to ask what Jazz is, you’ll never know.”