CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

Now’s the Time for the Charlie Parker Centennial

“Bird 100” celebrations include archival music releases, books, art, and online events

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker (photo: William P. Gottlieb c/o Library of Congress)

Charlie Parker was born this month in 1920—on August 29, 1920, to be exact, a date that has already prompted the launch of birthday observances fitting for his enormous legacy in the jazz world. Although the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic makes live performances scant at best, the Charlie Parker centennial celebration, also known as “Bird 100,” does include a shower of new releases, audio, visual, and multimedia, slated for the fall.

Friday, August 7, saw the release of a new vinyl issuing of Parker’s Clef Records LP The Magnificent Charlie Parker. (It’s a wide release of the limited-edition vinyl that came out for Record Store Day 2019.) The album collects all of Parker’s 78 releases on Clef, recorded in 1951.

Another special release, this time on Blue Note, comes out on Parker’s birthday, which is also the first day of this year’s socially distanced Record Store Day event. Jazz at Midnite features two performances by Parker at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1952 and 1953.

Verve/Universal has announced 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). Charlie Parker: The 10” Albums Collection features newly remastered audio from the original analog tapes and minute reproductions of the original cover art. (A release date has not yet been announced—it is slated for “later in 2020.”)

Also later in the year, Craft Recordings’ Charlie Parker Savoy 10” Album Collection, previously a vinyl-only release, will have its first CD edition.

New York’s 92nd Street Y will celebrate the Charlie Parker centennial with a 24-hour calendar of events over his birthday weekend, August 28-29. Charlie Parker: Now’s the Time—Celebrating Bird at 100 includes (among other choices) 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.

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

Currently available are canvas prints of several Parker album covers by David Martin Stone, which can be purchased in various sizes through uDiscover.

Finally, though not the same as live performance, two annual festivals that honor Parker are presenting online events this year. New York’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival offers several digital content items—including Q&A sessions, a “culture talk” with Sheila Jordan and Christian McBride, and a screening of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s 2012 performance of Charlie Parker with Strings—on Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage’s YouTube channel. And Kansas City’s annual Charlie Parker event hosts Spotlight 2020: Charlie Parker, a slate of events held throughout August both online and in various locations around Kansas City, Parker’s birthplace.