It was actually the clarinet that enamoured Vancouver-born Doug Parker at a young age and made him "aware of jazz as a separate thing from anything else." Parker has led one of the most expansive music careers in the city for someone who originally became a piano player "with no intention of being a professional." An exceptionally versatile pianist, arranger, composer, and conductor, Doug Parker's extensive work in radio and TV shows, recording studios, clubs, and dance halls encompasses jazz, rock, pop, country-western, Afro-Cuban, and experimental music. A great admirer of Duke Ellington, Doug is commended for the admirable feat of transcribing some of Ellington's famous big band arrangements. "The Ellington band accidentally was everything I think a band should be," Doug says.
"He's the best piano player I ever had."
Doug Parker's claim to fame was in Los Angeles in the early 1950s when he auditioned against other tremendous players for a spot in the band led by famed trumpeter Harry James. "I couldn't believe it happened," Doug recalls many years later. Doug's work with Harry James included touring the United States, playing piano for "big TV shows with movie stars", and recording the album Harry James in Hi-Fi (1955), in which Harry James gives accolades to "Canadian boy" Doug Parker in the liner notes.
"I realized this is really what I was supposed to be doing in music: is writing. That's where it's at for me."
By the 1960s, Doug moved back to Vancouver and started writing arrangements. "I should tell you how many musicians in Hollywood and elsewhere in New York were out of work. Oh gosh, there was nothing. TV was coming on, ballrooms were all gone, the nightclubs were shutting down, people weren't going out." However, people in Vancouver knew about Doug Parker by the strength of Harry James's word, and "the phone never stopped ringing" upon his return.
"I would choose to work on radio forever. You filled the whole medium. There was no visual thing, it was all sound, and there were no commercials."
"I was hardly without a show of some sort for many years," says Doug, who found himself busy in the 1960s and 70s with radio, TV, film, and other projects ranging from small groups like quintets with Fraser MacPherson to large ensembles with full string orchestras. He has many wonderful memories of his experiences writing big band arrangements for CBC radio and television. "Working for the CBC was like being at a wonderful club that you got paid for going to," says Doug, who composed, arranged, and conducted music for innumerable radio shows, commercials, and television programs covering the mediums of jazz, music variety, comedy, and country-western music.
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Doug Parker: Solos and Sets
Produced by Alan Matheson, Greg Holden, and John Mitchell
Harry James in Hi-Fi
Lonehill Jazz (2 disc re-release 2008)
Capital Records (1955)
Interview with Doug Parker
Parker, Doug. Personal Interview. Date Unknown. As heard on "Doug Parker: Solos and Sets" (Disc 4). 2005.
Interview with Doug Parker
Parker, Doug. Personal Interview with Gavin Walker. 1980s (exact date unknown). As heard on "Doug Parker: Solos and Sets" (Disc 4). 2005.
JazzStreet Vancouver Interview
Parker, Doug. Personal Interview with Alan Matheson. Vancouver, BC. 07 Dec 2005.
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