Charlie Parker

By Ron Wynn

This weekend marks the culmination of several celebrations highlighting the Charlie Parker Centennial. Parker, widely viewed as the greatest alto saxophonist in jazz history and one of the world’s most influential musicians, was born August 29, 1920. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced both the scope and the number of events that were previously designated as part of the celebration. But several things have already happened throughout the month, with a few more coming.

There was the release on Aug. 7 of a new vinyl album highlighting Parker’s original releases for the Clef Record label on 78s. “The Magnificent Charlie Parker” puts into wide circulation a previously limited-edition vinyl album originally issued for Record Store Day 2019. All the titles were recorded in 1951.

Blue Note is releasing on Saturday for the first of this year’s three Record Store Day events “Jazz At Midnite.” It spotlights two performances by Parker at the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. These were recorded in 1952 and 1953. Both Verve/Universal and Craft Recordings have new Parker reissues coming later this year. 

Verve/Universal is releasing a boxed edition of Parker’s five 10-inch albums on Clef (“Bird and Diz,” “Charlie Parker,” “Charlie Parker Plays South of the Border,” and “Charlie Parker with Strings Vol. 1 and 2”). The new version is titled “Charlie Parker: The 10” Albums Collection.” It also includes newly remastered audio from the original analog tapes and minute reproductions of the original cover art. The  Craft Recordings’ “Charlie Parker Savoy 10” Album Collection,” is the CD version of a previously vinyl-only release.

New York’s 92nd Street Y has a 24-hour calendar of events August 28-29. “Charlie Parker: Now’s the Time—Celebrating Bird at 100” includes a listening party of Parker recordings; a specially commissioned dance film choreographed by Hope Boykin; a screening of Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film “Bird,” and a conversation with saxophonists Joe Lovano, Charles McPherson, Grace Kelly, and Antonio Hart hosted by jazz critic and historian Gary Giddins.

There’s more coming in September with two print publications. The first is Dave Chisholm and Peter Markowski’s graphic novel “Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California,” under the Z2 Comics imprint. Hal Leonard will publish a deluxe hardcover edition of “Charlie Parker: The Complete Scores,” with 40 transcriptions (for quintet) of Parker sides.