Charlie Parker Quotes
Wise and Funny Words By and About the
Man and His Music

This collection of Charlie Parker quotes is full of insight into the "original jazz master" and his music.

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But man, there's no boundary line to art.
~Charlie Parker

Born in Kansas City, Parker earned his nickname, "Yardbird," because of his love of eating chicken. Later it was shortened to "Bird," the name most people used for him. The famous New York nightclub "Birdland" was named in his honor.

One of the fathers of "bebop," he was a technical virtuoso with incredible technique, and his experiments with harmonies, unique chording and rhythms influenced every jazz musician who followed. Any page with Charlie Parker quotes would not be complete without some of the many, many wonderful things other jazz musicians had to say about "Bird." To many, he was the father of it all, and they all paid him homage.

Let this group of quotations by Charlie Parker and others tell you more about the man, his life, his technique and his legacy.


Bop is no love-child of jazz.

I can play all I know in eight bars.

Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.

Hey man, it's just music. It's playing clean and hitting the pretty notes.

I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born.

I kept thinking there's bound to be something else? I could hear it sometimes, but I couldn't play it.

In Kansas City joints ran 9pm-5am. Pay was a $1.25 a night but somebody special like Count Basie could command $1.50.

You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.

Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle, or when he is juiced, is a plain straight liar…. You can miss the most important years of your life, the years of possible creation.

I'd been getting bored with the stereotyped changes [harmonies] that were being used all the time. ... I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes I could play the thing I'd been hearing. I came alive.

And here's what is probably my favorite of all the Charlie Parker quotes—short, sweet, and it really says it all!

Now's the time - Oop Bop Shbam!!
~Charlie Parker

The influence of Charlie "Bird" Parker on other jazz musicians—both in his own time and continuing until today—can hardly be over-stated. He was and is a legend and the people who worked with him idolized his talent and his technique. Everyone who knew him had something to say about him. Perhaps most eloquent of all was Miles Davis. When he was asked to summarize the history of jazz, he had only four words:
"Louis Armstrong; Charlie Parker."

Here are some other wonderful Charlie Parker quotes from people who knew and worked with him.

Charlie Parker always filled me with a kind of despair, because he played the way I would have liked to write, and this wasn't possible for me or anyone else. He made poetry seem word-bound.
~P. J. Kavanagh

When I first heard Charlie Parker, I said,"That's how our music should be played." After we got it together, yeah, I knew we were making something new. It was magic. Nobody on the planet was playing like that but us.
~Dizzy Gillespie

Charlie Parker Quote

When Bird came on the scene, it was shocking as in the Bible: everything was dark and then there was light.
~Shorty Rogers

The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes.
~John Coltrane

He had just what we needed. He had the line and he had the rhythm. The way he got from one note to the other and the way he played the rhythm fit what we were trying to do perfectly. We heard him and knew the music had to go his way…. He was the other half of my heartbeat.
~Dizzy Gillespie

Be sure to check out the other jazz quotations from and about Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis as well as many other Jazz Quotes (more pages will be added soon). Click the links in the box at the top right on this page.

Return from Charlie Parker Quotes to Jazz Quotes

Go Back to the Home Page

Also see these pages
of quotations by and
about other jazz legends.

Ella Fitzgerald Quotes
Duke Ellington Quotes
John Coltrane Quotes
Louis Armstrong Quotes
Miles Davis Quotes

Also see these pages
of funny and inspirational
music quotations

Jazz Quotes
Quotes About Music
Inspirational Music Quotes
Funny Music Quotes
Opera Quotes
Quotes About Richard Wagner
Rock and Roll Quotes