Happy Bird Day
August 29, 2020 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I live a way down the road from Lincoln Cemetery, where Parker is buried beside his mother. I try to drop by there every so often.
posted by flug at 12:17 AM on August 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was just listening to some Bird earlier this week. I had no idea his 100th was approaching. Thank you!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:39 AM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

WKCR is in the middle of the Charlie Parker Centennial Festival, which runs 24 hours/day until Thursday, Sept. 3. Since they are currently running recorded archives because of covid, the vast majority will likely be taken from Birdflight, hosted by Phil Schaap, which runs Monday-Friday at 8:30am EST and is devoted entirely to the examining in excruciating detail theworks of Charlie Parker.

I have a particular fondness for the Afro Cuban Jazz Suite.
posted by clockwork at 5:39 AM on August 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Bird Lives
posted by sammyo at 6:54 AM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you. I've just bought a biography but also the Charlie Parker for guitar transcriptions, hoping once again I've found the right set of wings to get closer to the sun. Thanks for the links.
posted by nicolin at 7:01 AM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Stanley Crouch, wizard wordsmith, wrote the best Bird biography. Volume One was called Kansas City Lightning and came out in 2013. Volume Two is due out in January 2021. Can't wait.
posted by kozad at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Back in the 1990s I did some work for what eventually became known as the American Jazz Museum; it's one of two museums at 18th and Vine, with the other being the contiguously located Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. 2020 is also the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, but I digress.

Anyway, Bird is most closely associated with two saxophones: a bespoke brass King alto sax which wound up at the Smithsonian and the plastic sax he used at the Massey Hall concert hoist by his own pet aardvark linked in the post, on display at the American Museum of Jazz. Both saxophones were rescued by Parker's wife, Chan, shortly after he died, first from a pawn shop and then from a flood a few months later as described here by Smithsonian Magazine.

Bird would regularly pawn and then reclaim his horns. The Massey Hall concert was put together at the last minute, for reasons I can't remember, but for some reason Parker couldn't play under his own name and so he was listed as Charlie Chan, a portmanteau of the first names of he and his wife. Anyway, his instrument was currently in hock, so someone gave him the plastic sax to use that night and he kept it. The concert took place on the same night as a big boxing match and so attendance was spotty, which is one reason why the recording is pretty legible.

In the mid 1990s, then Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (now a member of Congress) made the controversial decision to spend something like $150k in city funds to acquire the plastic saxophone for the museum. He took a lot of heat for that decision, which also helped out the Parker family and made life a little better for them, but he was absolutely right and the plastic saxophone is now among the American Jazz Museum's most prized and popular artifacts.

The museum has struggled off and on for a long time. Given COVID I don't know whether the museum is even open, but AMJ mounted a temporary special exhibit on Charlie Parker celebrating his centennial that runs through the end of the year. I haven't seen the exhibit, but if you're a KCMO jazz fan, AMJ could use your support.
posted by carmicha at 8:35 AM on August 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

Anecdote that I'd heard about The Massey Hall concert was that the promoter had a hard time dragging the band out of a nearby lounge (The Silver Rail?) where they were listening to the boxing match on the radio.
posted by ovvl at 12:13 PM on August 30, 2020

Stanley Crouch, wizard wordsmith, wrote the best Bird biography. Volume One was called Kansas City Lightning and came out in 2013. Volume Two is due out in January 2021. Can't wait.

I saw that Amazon has a listing for it - no title yet. I think the publisher was saying, when "Kansas City Lightning" came out , that Volume 2 was coming in 2015 or 2016. I was too smart to believe that, but I had hoped it would be coming before 2021! Well, I'll be happy to have it, and it maybe turns out to arrive at the right time - it will get me through isolation January.

Probably Crouch's biggest coup in v. 1 was that he got an interview with Parker's first wife, who had until then not spoken to writers or scholars, I think. She said something to him that I thought was very moving - paraphrasing, she said even if she had known what Parker wss going to do to her (cheating, STDs, abandoning her with a child - the man had the morals of a housecat), and do to himself ( I guess she means drug addiction), she would have still loved him. He also tracked down soe old-timers who had known Parker in Chicago - I hadn't even known that he ever lived in Chicago.
posted by thelonius at 12:45 PM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another thing that hadn't occurred to me: how did Bird get to New York City, at least the first time he went? Hoboing! Riding the rails. The Chicago episode was a layover.

There was also an incredible story about some Kansas City musicians who went out to make their fortune, touring in the wake of Count Basie's commercial success. The promoter took their money and stranded them in West Virginia. Can you imagine? A dozen or so African-American men, dead broke, stranded in the Jim Crow South. They got home by jumping trains, too. Apparently one of the only venues in America where white people would help black people, at that time, were the hobo jungles.
posted by thelonius at 3:50 PM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Bob Dorough's tribute to Parker: Yardbird Suite
posted by Lexica at 6:53 PM on August 30, 2020

That he would "only" be 100 is kind of amazing. So many of the jazz greats died young that one could be forgiven for thinking them all much, much further back in time than they actually were.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane would have been 94 this year. Bill Evans would have been 91. Cannonball, 92. Philly Joe Jones, dead since 1985, would have been 97. Mingus died at only 56, in 1979. (Some others were a little older -- Gil Evans (b. 1912), e.g., or Monk (b 1917).)

An illustrative fact is this: Jimmy Cobb was the last surviving member of Davis' First Great Quintet for almost 30 years before he passed, at 91, earlier this year.

Sonny Rollins, god bless him, is still alive at 89.

(Also this is a great time to plug Miles' eponymous autobiography, which is really really great.)
posted by uberchet at 7:09 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

He breathed in air, he breathed out light.
Charlie Parker was my delight.

- Adrian Mitchell.

A lovely poem about an incredible innovator.
posted by YoungStencil at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2020

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