Charlie Parker Residence
Location: 151 Avenue B
I have to squint my third ear to hear Charlie Parker’s music as the seething garble of traditionalist imagination. To me, it runs a perfectly relatable gamut of emotions, a knottiness tending towards sad reflection; in other words, it just sounds like jazz. But if whatever made Parker revolutionary is hard for me to capture, I sometimes think I feel his respectable side, his with-strings side, his friendly-with-Varèse side. (This shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose: I was practically born bourgeois in thought and act.)
This house is where Parker briefly got respectable with Chan Richardson and settled into a kind of family life, at least as much as addiction and a music career would allow. And what an odd site for it, too. This is a Gothic Revival townhouse in a city where few were built and fewer survive. Keyed to the Romantic idea of nature, Gothic style was thought to need a performance in nature — or a reasonable stand-in like in a large, green lot — and a townhouse in an assembly-line row of townhouses in a city full of such rows seemed mighty antithetical to that idea. Perhaps apologetically, then, it lays claim to Gothic in a few, bare gestures: an ogive-shaped, colonnetted entrance; pencil-thin hood moldings over the windows; a little trefoil molding below the cornice. They’d look as glib as a portico in front of a McMansion were they not so expertly done and expertly cared for.