This drawing is another tribute to Charlie Parker, whose pioneering experiments in jazz greatly influenced Basquiat. The depiction of Parker dressed in a polka dot necktie with his saxophone has a striking resemblance to the photograph on the front of Parker’s historic ‘Koko Sessions’ record, released in 1945 by Savoy. Another possible source is a promotional photograph included in Basquiat’s beloved copy of Ross Russell’s Bird Lives! biography, displayed nearby in the Gallery. The ‘Koko Sessions’ recording was Parker’s first session as a bandleader and the phrase is inscribed, outlined and then crossed out on Untitled (Charlie Parker) to draw particular attention to its importance.
The first bars from the beginning of the theme of the song ‘Red Cross’, one of the great examples of early bebop recorded by Parker and guitarist Lloyd ‘Tiny’ Grimes, are also drawn below the staves.