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KPBS Midday Edition

How San Diego Saxophonist Charles McPherson Was Introduced To Charlie Parker

San Diego saxophonist Charles McPherson in an undated photo.
Andrew Bracken
San Diego saxophonist Charles McPherson in an undated photo.
How San Diego Saxophonist Charles McPherson Was Introduced To Charlie Parker
How San Diego Saxophonist Charles McPherson Was Introduced To Charlie Parker GUEST:Charles McPherson, musician Andrew Bracken, host, My First Day

I'm Jade Hindman and you're listening to midday edition on KPBS. When Charles McPhearson first saw Charlie Parker play he said I want to be that. Now he's one of the most renowned saxophonist in San Diego. Here's Andrew Brackin host of the PBS podcast my first day with more of Macpherson's story. Discovering an artist that we fully connect with can be life altering especially during our youth. It can help give us focus and defined a path for our future selves. This was the case for Charles MacPherson when he first heard and later saw legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker also known as bird. Would have a profound impact on him and the trajectory of his life. Here's Charles MacPherson with his story of my first day. I was born in Joplin Missouri and I stayed there up until I was 9 years old. After that I moved to Detroit with my mom. I moved on to St that eventually had a lot to do with my musical life on the street that I moved on. There was no other young person my age about nine. And we immediately connected as just play partners you know and we both ended up getting into music and playing in the band in the junior high band. Charles initially started playing a different instrument. He gravitated to the saxophone early on. So far kid. What does it attraction to it. Well definitely visually I liked the way it looked. I go you know shiny gold instrument. I liked the way it looked which I liked the way it was shaped the shape of the Horn actually it was interesting to me. How was this s you know. And of course the sound which is the most important thing of all really spoke to me even as a little kid. I was very much like the human voice. Reduction of the sound is pretty much like what you do when you throw in your mouth. Tom and. Vowels sounds. Everything. You are making the throw. Basically is in place so that I like it because that brings about almost like an organic kinship with you and the instrument. Both Charles and his childhood friend Lani became increasingly enamored with jazz progressive jazz or bebop more specifically an older kid at school told him about a saxophone player by the name of Charlie Parker. A while later while hanging out at the neighborhood candy store he spotted Charlie Parker's name on the jukebox. I put my money in and I heard bird and the first thing I heard of Charlie Parker was a series of records that he may call south of the border. And this particular toos Tiko Tiko. And that was when I heard that it was like it was like somebody hit me in here. If it was that that was it. For the first time it was just like bam. It was like This is the way when you do this. This is how it's supposed to sound. For whatever reason I understand I understood it immediately. I didn't need to be propagandized. It spoke to me right away emotionally and intellectually if you can use the term for virtue to describe what some 13 14 year old kids. How are you thinking about whatever. But I understood it made melodic sense to me and made the the logic in it even though it's a complex music and some people have a hard time with it but I understood it immediately right away. I saw that linear logic of it even though I didn't know what it was but I it made sense to me in any way how things were connected our musical phrases were connected. This to me is one thing that sets him apart from everybody else is this beautiful sense of unfolding logic that flows and just flawless and just perfect phrasing. I could hear that. It was like I to learn how to do that. That was the moment in time that I knew I wanted to play this kind of music. This was the guy I wanted to listen to. So I wanted to learn everything about that kind of music and everything about all of the people who played that music. And then he saw him play and then I saw him play. If hearing bird for the first time didn't leave enough of an impression getting to see him play live on the further cemented the bond Yeah I knew was coming to town. He was going to be at a ballroom in Detroit Matterson ballroom you know in April or whatever is like oh I'm going to see John Rocker. So that was it. I couldn't wait for that. And sure enough I go there and he's to be there weekend Friday Saturday Sunday didn't show up Friday. So people were like I hope he shows up so I'm there on a Saturday roomful of people. Just a lot of people there. Some people they are just a dance they know who Charlie Parker is and could care less. But all the do most of he got as their new jolly rockers and they were there for that and so we were just kind of standing around waiting for him. Is he going to show or not. And all of a sudden I see throngs of people. Rushing over to a certain part of the room. I heard somebody say he's here so I rushed over there too. And as I made my way through the people right in the circle of people all around him was Charlie Parker getting his horn now. I mean if you're just first and it was magic just seeing him like that with these people around him. And he got his heart out right on the floor not on the bandstand right on the floor and he gave a quick would it be it would be like a tommy gun of notes come our way just one to one up. But you know he just went from the bottom to the top fasces Hill and just you know the warm up and say OK I'm ready to go. And that's what he did he just does that you know and he went on the bandstand and so now everybody is everybody is just dirty here. Charlie Parker is running up to the bandstand. And then the other people are there waiting for him to play so they can dance and then he played and he played mindful that people are dancing. So he had to. He had to water down his Mateer you can play fast or punch him you know and not too long he had to play temples that weren't too passive people could do. So he was mindful that any play was just spectacular. I've never heard anything like it I've never heard anything like it since that was San Diego San Diego musician Charles MacPherson in an episode of the KPBS podcast my first day. The podcast is hosted by Andrew Brack and to listen to the rest of that episode go to KPBS dot org slash my first day.

When Charles McPherson first saw Charlie Parker play he said, "I want to be that." Now, McPherson is one of the most renowned saxophonists on the American jazz scene. McPherson tells the story of the introduction that helped shape his life on the KPBS podcast, My First Day.

The KPBS Explore project podcast, "My First Day," has just completed its second season. Andrew Bracken is the creator, producer and host.

In season one, San Diegans shared the stories of their first days in the city. The second season is giving the city's residents an outlet to share the moments that changed their lives.

The goal of KPBS Explore project is to provide a platform for original content by and about the San Diego community.