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Bird 100 Celebrations For Jazz Legend Charlie Parker’s 2020 Centennial

The centennial will feature new music releases, a tribute tour, festivals and events, prestigious exhibitions and much more.

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Charlie Parker Carnegie Hall c 1947 courtesy William P Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library Of Congress
Photo: William P Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library Of Congress

Bird 100, a year-long celebration of the life and career of trailblazing jazz titan Charlie Parker, has been announced. It will commence with a limited edition vinyl pressing of the rare 12-inch LP The Magnificent Charlie Parker, to be released exclusively for Record Store Day’s Black Friday on 29 November.

Events and releases will continue throughout 2020, building towards the 100th anniversary of Parker’s birth on 29 August 1920). To mark the undying legacy of the alto saxophonist who was among the creators of bebop and progenitors of modern jazz, the centennial will include numerous major initiatives to delight new and existing admirers.

These will include new music releases, a tribute tour, festivals and events, prestigious exhibitions, special partnerships, a unique graphic novel, exclusive collectible art and many independent appreciations and concerts.

In a statement, Parker’s estate said: “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 honour Bird’s transformative musical impact on past, present and future generations.”

The Magnificent Charlie Parker has been out of print on vinyl since its original release in 1955, and is now pressed on vibrant yellow vinyl by his longtime label Verve, in conjunction with UMe. It features a quintessential David Stone Martin cover and painstakingly recreated art, including Clef Records labels. The 11-song disc features Parker and his frequent collaborators Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Max Roach and John Lewis, with arrangements by Gil Evans.

The artwork for the limited edition release is also available for purchase, along with four additional classic album covers. These include four by David Stone Martin, as archival quality, framed canvas prints, exclusively via uDiscover Music. The wall art is available in a variety of sizes and depicts the albums Big Band, Machito Jazz With Flip & Bird, The Magnificent Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker With Strings and Charlie Parker With Strings (Vol. 2).

Several more Verve/UMe releases of Parker’s work will follow throughout 2020. Currently in development is 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 be released on 28 August 2020, the day before the 100th anniversary of his birth, and it will contain five extraordinary albums that he 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 albums will be newly remastered from the original analog tapes and will include faithful reproductions of the classic artwork and packaging, pressed on 180 gram black 10-inch vinyl and housed in an attractive slipcase. The albums represent Bird’s fruitful Clef period of the late 1940s to mid-1950s and have never been released together. All of the titles except Bird and Diz have been out of print on vinyl since their original releases, and will appear in their original form for the first time in more than six decades.

In February 2020, Craft Recordings will release the deluxe box set The Savoy 10-inch Collection, four 10” LPs cut from newly-restored and remastered audio. This collection spotlights Parker’s pioneering bebop recordings for Savoy Records from 1944-1948, featuring his work with fellow legends Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Bud Powell, Max Roach and others.

The packaging for the February release includes faithfully restored original album artwork and a booklet with vintage photographs, rare ephemera and new liner notes by the Grammy-winning author Neil Tesser. The box set will also be released digitally.

‘Fly Higher: Charlie Parker @ 100’ tribute tour

Among the live events further marking the centennial will be the tribute tour Fly Higher: Charlie Parker @ 100, sanctioned by the Estate of Charlie Parker and featuring acclaimed co-musical directors Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto saxophone) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums). They will examine Parker’s impact on pop, hip-hop, rap, rock and jazz, in a stellar band line-up including Charenée Wade (vocals), Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Kris Davis (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Kassa Overall (DJ). The tour is produced by Danny Melnick for Absolutely Live Entertainment and represented for bookings by International Music Network. More information is at the events page of the Charlie Parker website.

The annual festivals in Parker’s hometown of Kansas City and his adopted home of New York City will both honour him at next year’s events. New York’s three-day Charlie Parker Jazz Festival will take place in New York City on the last weekend of August 2020. Over the last 28 years, the event, produced by City Parks Foundation, has presented some of the finest musicians in the world who reflect Parker’s musical individuality and genius. It’s held in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park, neighbourhoods in which Parker lived and worked. More information will be available here soon.

Birdland honours its own

August 2020 will also see Birdland, the famed New York jazz club, curate a month-long Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. The venue adopted its very name in 1949 to capitalise on the popularity of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, the club’s regular headliner. Each week will feature a different headliner honouring Parker, and festivities will launch with Bird With Strings, with renowned clarinetist Ken Peplowski as music director; he and a conductor friend will invite different soloists, on numerous instruments, to play the arrangements with a chamber orchestra.

This will be followed with Birdland’s tenth annual Bird-thday Celebration, with an all-star ensemble performing Parker’s compositions. August will culminate with celebrated saxophonist Joe Lovano and the Joe Lovano Us Five playing a reprise of Bird Songs, released by Blue Note in 2011. For tickets and more info, visit the Birdland site.

Lincoln Centre hosts ‘Bird and Beyond’

New year in New York will feature Bird and Beyond: Celebrating Charlie Parker at 100, a panel discussion at the Jazz Congress conference, on 13-14 January at Jazz at Lincoln Centre. Later in the year, the New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Centre will host a series of programmes including conversations and screenings in the Library’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, as well as listening salons of rarely heard recordings in the Library café.

The annual Charlie Parker Celebration in Kansas City, now in its sixth year, will mark the centennial with Spotlight: Charlie Parker, a ten-day, city-wide celebration of his life and music from 20-29 August. Jam sessions, tours, lectures, exhibits, panel discussions, poetry slams and workshops will be hosted by KC Jazz Alive, University of Missouri Kansas City, the American Jazz Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mutual Musicians Foundation, Bruce Watkins Cultural Centre and numerous other cultural and civic organisations. More information here.

Other collaborations and partnerships marking the anniversary will include an event at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, to be announced at a later date; an official custom Charlie Parker Legends Series alto saxophone mouthpiece with RS Berkeley, modelled after Parker’s original; and a graphic novel that the Charlie Parker Estate is currently developing with the esteemed Z2 Comics. The boutique company, which has pioneered the “graphic album” format, will bring some of Parker’s wild stories vividly to life with its unique marriage of comics and music.

Listen to the best of Charlie Parker on Apple Music and Spotify.

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