Leo Parker was the proud owner of a big, beefy baritone sax tone and a fluent technique that struck a great match between the gritty, down-home feeling of R&B and the advanced harmonies of bebop. At first, he studied alto in high school, even recording with Coleman Hawkins' early bebop band at age 18 on that instrument in 1944.
Parker was very active during the 1940s in several bebop bands, like the Billy Eckstine Band, breeding ground for a lot of upcoming jazz musicians. When Billy needed a baritone saxophone player in his band, he gave one to Leo Parker, nicknamed The Kid, who played the alto sax up to that time. Another story says that he took up the baritone to be not mixed up with his namesake Charlie Parker seems to be far-fetched. He became an excellent baritone player in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Sir Charles Thompson and combined fine bebop elements with rhythm and blues licks.
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