The Blast

Varese on Charlie Parker
July 20, 2010, 9:11 pm
Filed under: classical, jazz, music

In the 1920s, french composer Edgar Varese held a certain contempt for jazz music. However, the advent of bebop changed this attitude, and Varese went on to hold workshops such notable jazz artists as Charles Mingus, and at one point almost had Charlie Parker as a pupil. Quoting Varese in an interview reprinted in Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington:

With jazz, the ones who could have been good become very conventional. I heard the man who was playing—what was his name? He died. He was a god of music in that field. He played a kind of saxophone—Charlie Parker. At that time he lived in New York. He followed me on the street, and he said he wanted to be with us. The day I left I said, “We’ll get together. I’ll take you for my pupil.” Then I had to catch my boat. It’s when I went to Europe for Déserts. And Charlie Parker died in ’55, in March. Oh, he was so nice, and so modest, and he had such a tone. You could not know if it was an angelic double bass, a saxophone, or a bass clarinet. Then one day I was in that big hall there on 14th Street, the Cooper Union. Somebody said, “I want to meet you.” She was the widow of Charlie Parker. She said, “He was always talking about you, so I know all about you.” And that man was a great star. He wanted to study music and thought I had something for him.

Recordings of Varese’s workshops with Charles Mingus and others made in 1957 can be found here.

via the always excellent Alex Ross

Edgar Varese


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