Parker is commonly considered one of the greatest jazz musicians, ranked with such players as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Jazz critic Scott Yanow speaks for many jazz fans and musicians when he states that "Parker was arguably the greatest saxophonist of all time." A founding father of bebop, Parker's innovative approaches to melody, rhythm, and harmony were enormously influential on his contemporaries, and his music remains an inspiration and resource for musicians in jazz as well as in other genres. Several of Parker's songs have become standards, such as "Billie's Bounce," "Anthropology," "Ornithology," and "Confirmation".
Parker also became an icon for the Beat generation, and was a pivotal figure in the evolving conception of the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than just a popular entertainer. At various times, Parker fused jazz with other musical styles, from classical (seeking to study with Edgard Varèse and Stefan Wolpe) to Latin music (recordings with Machito), blazing paths followed later by others.
Parker's soaring, fast, rhythmically asymmetrical improvisations could amaze the listener. His harmonic ideas were revolutionary, introducing a new tonal vocabulary employing 9ths, 11ths and 13ths of chords, rapidly implied passing chords, and new variants of altered chords and chord substitutions. His tone was clean and penetrating, but sweet and plaintive on ballads. Although many Parker recordings demonstrate dazzling virtuoso technique and complex melodic lines — such as "Koko," "Kim," and "Leap Frog" — he was also one of the great blues players. His themeless blues improvisation "Parker's Mood" represents one of the most deeply affecting recordings in jazz, as fundamental as Armstrong's "West End Blues."