Leo Parker Discography

Compiled by Frank Basile
First published August 2015

Leo Parker was born in Washington DC on April 18, 1925. At the age of 15 he began studying alto saxophone while attending Armstrong High School and would eventually begin to play at jam sessions around town.

Parker moved to New York by 1944 and was sitting in at Minton’s with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Lockjaw Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach. On February 16, 1944 Parker made his recording debut with Coleman Hawkins on what has since been dubbed the “first bebop recording.”

By the end of 1944, Parker had joined Billy Eckstine’s groundbreaking bebop big band. Initially, he was playing 2nd alto, but the baritone spot soon opened up and Eckstine convinced Parker to make the switch and fill the chair. From this point on, the baritone saxophone would remain Parker’s sole musical voice, and he would be one of the first and most successful adaptors of the bebop language to the baritone saxophone.

Parker remained with Eckstine’s band through mid-1946 at which point he worked on 52nd Street with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band and combo.

1947 saw Parker joining Illinois Jacquet’s very popular band. In addition to keeping busy touring and recording with Jacquet, he also recorded with the bands of Fats Navarro, Sir Charles Thompson, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, and J.J. Johnson. Parker also made his first recordings as a bandleader that year.

Between 1948 and 1954, Parker recorded sporadically; usually as a leader. Due to health problems, he only worked intermittently until he made a comeback in 1961, recording two LPs for Blue Note records. Parker recorded once again with Illinois Jacquet on February 5th, 1962, six days before his untimely death.

Parker’s baritone style combined the sonic majesty of Harry Carney, the bebop sensibility of Charlie Parker and the rhythmic excitement of Illinois Jacquet. He successfully synthesized these influences, and others, to become one of jazz’s greatest baritone saxophonists.

A NOTE ON ISSUES:

With this discography, it is my aim to compile all session information available (i.e. date, location, personnel, song titles, composers, arrangers, alternate takes, etc.). It is not my intention to list every single issue for the recordings in this discography. I’ve made it a priority to list all original issues. In addition, I’ve listed what are in my estimation, the most common or most easily accessible modern issues.

LEO PARKER DISCOGRAPHY WORKS CITED