19 January 1931, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Parlan played piano from an early age, his first professional work being in R&B bands during the early and mid-50s. In 1957 he joined Charles Mingus in New York, later playing with Lou Donaldson, Booker Ervin, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Johnny Griffin, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and others. In the early 70s he settled in Denmark, playing with local and visiting musicians including Dexter Gordon, Archie Shepp and Michal Urbaniak. As a result of contracting polio as a child, Parlan suffered limitations in the use of his right hand; to compensate, he developed a powerful left hand and evolved a distinctive style in which echoes of bop and the blues blend comfortably and to great effect.
Although he is always an interesting soloist, it is in the interplay with other musicians that Parlan displays his talents to the full: a fine example is the set of two duo albums - one of spirituals, one of blues - that he recorded with Shepp (in 1977 and 1980 respectively).
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.