Jazz great Charlie Parker’s incomparable life and extraordinary, trailblazing career is being celebrated all year with a centennial celebration lovingly dubbed ‘Bird 100’, after the nickname of the preeminent alto saxophonist who was one of the fathers of bebop and progenitors of modern jazz.
Leading up to the iconic musician’s 100th birthday on August 29, and throughout the year, the ‘Bird 100’ celebration will encompass a series of releases spanning a variety of media and perspectives in order to explore the full span of his inestimable legacy. In addition to enlightening new releases of Parker’s music and stunning vinyl reissues, it will also feature the first-ever graphic novel chronicling Parker’s life, a new animated video for one of his most beloved classics, a collection of scores for his immortal compositions, gorgeous canvas artwork culled from Parker’s visually striking album covers, and virtual events.
“The centennial of Charlie Parker is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate his life, legacy and art form with the world. We are thrilled to honor Bird’s transformative musical impact on past, present and future generations,” said Jeff Jampol, CEO of JAM, Inc., the manager of the Estate of Charlie Parker.
This fall, for ‘Bird 100’, Parker’s longtime label Verve Records, in conjunction with UMe, will offer an illuminating new perspective on a previously under-examined chapter of Parker’s life with a new collection titled Bird In LA, featuring unreleased songs recorded during Bird’s storied visits to Los Angeles in the mid ‘40s through the early ‘50s.
“Few artists have made such an impact on the music of an era as Charlie Parker did in shaping the sounds of the 20th century. We are honored to be entrusted with his legacy as we continue to offer fans quality reissues of his remarkable work and explore new platforms for new fans to discover and appreciate his artistry,” said Bruce Resnikoff, President & CEO, UMe.
“Charlie Parker is one of the enduring icons of Verve Records. He is a peerless artist and his legacy is far-reaching. We are proud to celebrate his centennial with many different initiatives – from a graphic novel and incredible reissues, to new videos and live events – so that everyone can be reminded of the greatness of Bird,” said Jamie Krents, EVP of Verve/Impulse!
In conjunction with Bird In LA, Z2 Comics (Gorillaz, Grateful Dead, The Doors) will release the graphic novel, Chasin’ The Bird: Charlie Parker In California, which chronicles the story of Bird’s time in Los Angeles starting in December 1945, where Bird and Dizzy Gillespie brought frenetic sounds of bebop from the East Coast jazz underground to the West Coast for a two-month residency at Billy Berg’s Hollywood jazz club.
This marked the beginning of a tumultuous two year-stint for Bird, bumming around LA, showing up at jam sessions, crashing on people’s couches, causing havoc in public places, and recording some of his most groundbreaking tracks such as, “A Night in Tunisia” and “Ornithology,” as well as “Relaxin’ At Camarillo,” inspired by the end of his time in SoCal at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. The novel explores Bird’s relationship with the characters and events he encountered during his time in L.A., including recording some of his signature songs with Dial Records founder Ross Russell, a brief but influential stay at the home of famed jazz photographer William Claxton, a party for the ages at the ranch home of artist Jirayr Zorthian, and others who found themselves in the orbit of the jazz genius.
Beautifully told by Dave Chisholm, colored by DreamWorks Animation Director Peter Markowski and featuring a foreword by Hall of Fame basketball legend and cultural icon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chasin’ the Bird, named for Parker’s 1947 standard, adapts one of the sunnier, albeit darker chapters in the life of Bird.
The graphic novel is available for pre-order now as either a standard or a deluxe edition, with two tracks to be announced on a Flexidisc in the standard version and an accompanying 45” LP for the deluxe version when purchased exclusively via the store. Early reviews have been nothing short of glowing with Comic Bookcase hailing it as “One of the best graphic novels of the year.”
Bird In LA and Chasin’ The Bird will be the subject of a virtual panel hosted by the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles in October. More details will be forthcoming. Parker’s music will also enter the visual realm via a new video for his much beloved rendition of the Gershwin’s “Summertime” launching this month.
The August birthday ‘Bird 100’ festivities will kick off this Friday, August 7 with the vinyl reissue of The Magnificent Charlie Parker on black vinyl via Verve/UMe, following the limited release on yellow vinyl for Record Store Day Black Friday in November 2019 which launched ‘Bird 100’ last year. The sumptuous LP brings together all of Parker’s 78 RPM singles for Clef Records, recorded in January and August 1951 and featuring a veritable line-up of jazz greats including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, and Kenny Clarke.
The first installment of this year’s “socially distanced” three-day Record Store Day extravaganza falls on Parker’s 100th birthday, August 29, and Bird aficionados will receive the gift of a reissue of Jazz at Midnite on midnight blue vinyl. The album documents stunning performances recorded live in 1952 and 1953 at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. featuring stellar band members Max Roach, Charlie Byrd, Zoot Sims and more.
Later in the year, Verve/UMe will release a vinyl box set of Parker’s complete Clef 10” albums featuring David Stone Martin’s iconic illustrated covers. Charlie Parker: The Clef 10” Albums Collection will include five extraordinary albums Parker recorded for Norman Granz’s Clef Records: Bird and Diz, Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker Plays South Of The Border, Charlie Parker With Strings and Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2). The LPs will feature newly remastered audio from the original analog tapes and will include faithful reproductions of the classic artwork and packaging for the first time in more than six decades. The albums will be pressed on 180-gram black 10” vinyl and will be housed in a custom slipcase. Representing Bird’s fruitful late ‘40s to mid-50s Clef period, the albums have never been released together, and all but Bird and Diz have been out of print on vinyl since their original releases.
Elsewhere, The cover art of several Parker album featuring David Stone Martin’s iconic illustrations are also now available for purchase as archival quality, framed canvas prints exclusively via uDiscover. The high-end wall art is customizable in a variety of sizes and includes the albums: Big Band, Machito Jazz With Flip & Bird, The Magnificent Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker With Strings and Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2).
Additionally, The Savoy 10-inch Collection, highlighting Parker’s pioneering bebop recordings for Savoy Records from 1944-1948, will make its debut as a CD box set later this year. Previously released by Craft Recordings only on LP, the set features performances by jazz legends Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Bud Powell, Max Roach and more.