Parker, Charlie "Bird" (Charles Christopher Parker, Jr.), 1920–55, American musician and composer, b. Kansas City, Kans. He began playing alto saxophone in 1933 and, shifting from one band to another, eventually met Dizzy Gillespie in New York City. Becoming friends and collaborators, they formed a quintet, which in 1945 made the first bop (or bebop) records. Their technique and style led the jazz world away from big-band swing music, and made them the leaders of the bop movement. Parker's brilliant improvisations, noted for their power and beauty, soon earned the admiration of innumerable musicians. He composed several instrumental quartets and made many recordings. For many years Parker was addicted to drugs, which hastened his death.
See biographies by B. Priestley (2006), S. Crouch (Vol. 1, 2013), and C. Haddix (2013); studies by G. Giddens (1987, repr. 1998, 2013) and L. O. Koch (1988).