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Charlie Parker’s Bird Up: Thriving on a Remix

Charlie Parker
Matthew Backer

Bird was like a hip-hop head,” says Matthew Backer, explaining why he believes the Charlie Parker remix album Bird Up (Savoy) that he masterminded continues Parker’s legacy. “Bird was someone who took what was there before him and completely reinvented it to a point where it still had the essence of what it was originally-it’s not like he took it and pillaged it-but he was unwilling to accept things as they were before he came to the table.” For Bird Up, Backer recruited audacious producers, including the RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, Dan the Automator, Hal Willner, Me’Shell NdegéOcello and Serj Tankian of System of a Down, to take the same approach to classic Parker sides, pushing now-familiar bebop soundscapes into new places that are sometimes strange, occasionally brilliant and always invigorating.

Parker’s music had been in Backer’s ears since childhood, and after he completed a spur-of-the-moment remix of “Barbados,” Backer immediately knew that he should get a “Justice League of America-type” group of producers to join him in the endeavor. When he approached his dream team, “no one had the slightest bit of hesitation,” Backer says. “All of the heads involved were revolutionary spirits in one way or another, and they all held Bird in the highest esteem and saw him as someone they had to thank. It was something where people came and joined Bird in a dance in their own way.”

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