Cochrane, Arpeggio and Scale Resources - a guitar encyclopedia.

Charter 3, pages 30-2 give the description. In it Cochrane says:

As far as I’m aware, Charlie Parker never knowingly used ‘the Charlie Parker cycle’, but the name is now traditional...

Right off the bat he says Parker didn't actual do the method described. But he says its name is traditional. Yet I could not find another reference using that name using Google Books and Google Scholar. My searches bring up only Cochrane's book.

Is there anything traditional about this concept? Is it commonly taught, perhaps with a different name?

Also, he says Parker never "knowingly" used it. But, did he do it at all? Did Parker do stuff like play an E7 arpeggio over a G7 chord to the extent that it could be called characteristic of his style? I can't tell if Cochrane's method is just a clever way of treating a dominant seventh with altered and substitution tones rather than what Parker actual did.

  • I've attempted to create a chat on this, but have no clue how to invite someone directly. So, just know, I've attempted to start a discussion here, specifically with John Belzaguy in mind. This kind of thing seems to be in his wheelhouse.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


I contacted the book's author, Rich Cochrane, and asked about this. With his permission, here is his response.

This is something I was shown a long time ago by a teacher (i.e. I think in the late 1980s). He had this terminology from someone else but I don't know the origin of it. At the time I wrote the book I'd been carrying it around unquestioningly but since then I've realised that, as you say, it's not something you actually find in Parker's own practice. What I now suspect is that it was a mangled, word-of-mouth version of the Barry Harris approach. But i[t] obviously isn't really that either, at least not as it's understood in 2020. Other people have put forward similar ideas -- I believe Jack Zucker has something on it in one of his books -- but it's all long after Bird and in quite a different style.

Email from Rich Cochrane

  • 1
    It was a great idea to contact the author Aaron, thanks for providing the response as I was very curious as to what he would say about it. The idea of playing phrases built on symmetrical intervals has been around for a long time but I’m 99% certain it was post-Bird. I think Coltrane might have planted the seed for the idea (maybe with a little help from the bridge of “Have You Met Miss Jones”) when he began his “Giant Steps” period of composing songs in 3 or 4 equidistant keys. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 18:18
  • @JohnBelzaguy, in the book right after the "Charlie Parker Cycle" come the "John Coltrane Cycle" Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 18:26
  • @Aaron, wow! That certainly settles it. Didn't mean to make you do my leg work! Thanks. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 18:28
  • @MichaelCurtis Yes, I read it, it’s the same basic principle but built on augmented steps instead of diminished. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 19:08

As I mentioned to @Aaron in the chat he started, I’ve never heard this term before and I’ve been playing jazz and been around jazz players for decades now (jeez, I’m old!). The concept it represents is also not representative of Bird’s improvising style at all. As ground breaking and chromatic as Bird’s style was, it was for the most part very “inside” the changes.

The closest I can say that Bird came to this is he did sometimes like to use riffs based on the sub V (say play a brief line in E over a Bb7 chord), especially on blues and in particular leading to the IV chord. Check out “Bloomdido” as an example, he does it a few times leading to the IV chord on that solo. These lines are not triad based though, they are in his typical linear chromatic melodic style. He would also sometimes play diminished lines and arpeggios built on the b9 over dominant chords, say, Abdim over G7. He also liked to play diminished lines very briefly within a single chord but would very quickly resolve them, as if he was playing a I-V-I, say, C-Bdim-C within the span of a single I, or Cmaj chord. That’s more or less the extent of His “outside” playing that I recall, I may be missing several other examples, there is a very large body of music he produced after all.

A term players sometimes refer to is “Charlie Parker Changes” and they’re talking about the alternate blues changes he created on “Blues For Alice” (also as part of the A section of “Confirmation”), which is cycle of 5ths driven but that’s a very different type of cycle.

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