On the 100th anniversary of Charlie Parker’s birth – August 29, 2020 – it is impossible to imagine the evolution of jazz and modern music in general without the indelible influence of one of the most important Black American figures in history. 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 Bird’s 100th birthday and throughout the year, the 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, Parker’s longtime label Verve Records, in conjunction with UMe, the global catalog company of Universal Music Group, will offer an illuminating new perspective on a previously underexamined 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 directly through the Z2 webstore, 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.”
ABOUT CHARLIE PARKER:
If jazz history can be divided into two epochs — danceable swing and improvisational bebop — then Charlie Parker is the fault line. During his brief but remarkable career, the alto saxophonist nicknamed “Bird” gave jazz lightning tempos, mind-bending chord substitutions, and previously unexplored harmonic depth, paving the way for hard bop, free jazz, fusion and everything after. Miles Davis summed up his accomplishments: “You can tell the history of jazz in four words. Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Parker, who died in 1955 at only 34, was a meteoric musician that burned bright and much too quick. But his legacy more than lives on; it’s jazz scripture. Jack Kerouac called him “as important as Beethoven.” Four of his recordings were inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame including albums Charlie Parker With Strings and Jazz At Massey Hall and the songs “Ornithology” and “Billie’s Bounce.” In 1974, he was awarded a posthumous GRAMMY for Best Performance By A Soloist for “First Recordings.” In 1988, the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic “Bird” brought his story to the silver screen. The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in 1995. The Parker composition “Koko” was included in the National Recorded Registry in 2002, declaring the song as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform(s) or reflect(s) life in the United States.” Although his life and career were short, the New Yorker has praised Parker as “one of the wonders of twentieth-century music” and the New York Times deemed him “matchless” and a “bebop exemplar.” Parker’s popularity continues to grow as the world celebrates the 100th birthday in 2020.