Charles McPherson Biography

24 July 1939, Joplin, Missouri, USA. Often dismissed as a Charlie Parker copyist, McPherson is in fact more than a simple revivalist. While the style in which he plays, bebop, is now outmoded, it is one with which he grew up, and he plays it with fire and conviction. His family moved to Detroit when he was aged nine, and it was at high school, a few years later, that he started playing trumpet and flügelhorn. McPherson took up alto saxophone in his early teens (although he had wanted to play tenor), but his vocation for alto was confirmed, however, when he heard Parker. While in Detroit he spent some time studying with Barry Harris, and then, after moving to New York, he worked in Greenwich Village with Lonnie Hillyer in the early 60s.

Fellow Detroit saxophonist Yusef Lateef suggested to Charles Mingus that he should hear McPherson when he was looking for a replacement for Eric Dolphy, and thus McPherson began the first of his stints with Mingus’ band, garnering some critical plaudits for his work with one of the more adventurous bop-based leaders. Almost a forgotten man until the late 80s, he deservedly came back into the limelight as a result of a couple of successful European tours. He also played on part of the soundtrack for Clint Eastwood’s biopic of Parker, Bird. His passion for Parker continues with his recording of A Tribute To Charlie Parker in 2005.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

Filter Results