Relaxin' at Camarillo

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"Relaxin' at Camarillo" is a composition by jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. It is inspired by his six-month stay in Camarillo State Hospital in Ventura County, California, after serving a prison term for arson and resisting arrest. The tune is a blues in C major and has become a jazz standard.


"Relaxin' at Camarillo" was inspired by Parker's term for a half a year, recovering in Camarillo State Hospital in Ventura County, California. He had been sent there to recuperate from drink and drug addiction after a term spent in jail from setting fire to his bed sheets, running naked through the hotel lobby and resisting arrest, incapacited.[1][2] Camarillo was a mental hospital set in several Mission Revival buildings to the north of Los Angeles.[3]


After release, Bird was able to record it along with three originals by trumpeter Howard McGhee: "Cheers", "Stupendous" and "Carvin the Bird". Parker recorded the tune with McGhee on trumpet, Dodo Marmarosa on piano, Wardell Gray on tenor, Barney Kessell on guitar, Red Callender on bass and Don Lamond on drums.[3] The tune was originally recorded in C major, and has become a jazz standard.[4] Ted Gioia, commenting in West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, has referred to the original recording as a "sinuous blues", a 12-bar blues that is a "further testimony to the subtlety of Parker's rhythmic phrasing". Gioia considers it to have been one of the finest recordings Parker made in California.[5] Roy Porter and David Keller consider "Relaxin' at Camarillo" to be a "great bop classic".[6]

Guitarist Joe Pass recorded it in 1964 for his album Joy Spring.[7] Saxophonist Joe Henderson released an album of the same name, featuring the recording, in 1979.[8] It was later recorded by pianist Cedar Walton. Jazz Journal International stated in 2009 that Walton "provides a stimulating introduction to Parker's Relaxin' At Camarillo. Cedar's solo here is one of his best on a disc that is chock full of glowing solos."[9]


  1. ^ The Dial Recordings of Charlie Parker: A Discography. Greenwood Publishing Group. 1998. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-313-29168-5.
  2. ^ Chase, Ronald (4 September 2013). Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science. JHU Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-4214-1091-3.
  3. ^ a b Starr, Kevin (9 September 2011). Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Oxford University Press. p. 475. ISBN 978-0-19-992430-1.
  4. ^ "Relaxin' at Camarillo". Learn Jazz Standards. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  5. ^ Gioia, Ted (1998). West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960. University of California Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-520-21729-4.
  6. ^ Porter, Roy (1 November 1995). There And Back. A&C Black. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-871478-30-3.
  7. ^ Lord, Tom (1997). The Jazz Discography. Lord Music Reference. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-881993-01-8.
  8. ^ Jazz Forum. For Jazz, sp. z o. o. 1982. p. 18.
  9. ^ Jazz Journal International. Billboard Limited. 2009. p. 36.