Iconic Spotlight : Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker

“In 1949, The Pershing Ballroom in Chicago was packed. The band had been playing for some time and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker had not arrived. There was a little unrest among the fans out front – after all, it had been billed as ‘Charlie Parker with Dizzy Gillespie and his Big Band.’ After a rather anxious intermission, Dizzy introduced Bird and the excitement level reached fever pitch! After some time, Parker wanted a breather. Diz would spin Bird around and shove him towards the microphone and kick off the next number. He knew when Bird left the stand the blowing was over.” So remembers photographer Ted Williams, who was there at The Pershing Ballroom that night in 1949.

These are some of the earliest images from the Ted Williams archive and his only surviving shots of these two icons on-stage. Williams went on to work with Gillespie for decades after, including the now iconic Down Beat cover portrait. Parker proved elusive to Williams’ camera and tragically died six years later in 1955 at the young age of 34.

The Ted Williams Limited Edition Jazz Boxset is available from the Iconic Store.

The set includes portraits of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Art Farmer & Benny Golson of the Jazztet, Thelonius Monk and a glorious marquee image announcing a performance by Count Basie. These ten archival, museum-quality prints are 12” x 16”, matted with a certificate of authenticity and ready for framing come in a clam-shell printed box.

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