Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker was born on Aug. 29, 1920. For three years now, Kansas City jazz organizations have marked his birthday week with a Charlie Parker Celebration, trying to increase hometown appreciation for the influential jazz saxophonist.

Charlie Parker
Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve/Universal Music)

Sounding exasperated, someone in the studio production crew sighs “take three” after Charlie Parker’s imperfect version of “Passport,” one of 58 previously unreleased tracks on Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes.

Bill Brownlee / Plastic Sax

For decades, Kansas City's jazz community has celebrated Charlie Parker's birthday with a musical tribute at his grave site in Lincoln Cemetery.  In recent years that's taken the form of a "21 Sax Salute" — only with a lot of instruments besides saxophones, and a lot more than 21.

Charlie Parker's birthday is coming up, and Kansas City is all a-twitter. Hear a visiting jazz scholar's take on the history of Bebop, and Kansas City-born Charlie Parker's place in it. Bonus: a recording of a jam session where you can hear the Bird talking.


Kelly/Flickr -- CC

Charlie Parker was one of the most influential musicians to come out of Kansas City. But how did Kansas City shape him?

“He’s definitely a Kansas City person,” jazz historian Scott DeVeaux told Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard.

“I mean, Kansas City has a rich enough jazz tradition before him, but he’s the one who combines aspects of the local scene, like the local blues scene, in a way that, I think, makes bebop what it is,” DeVeaux said.

Gottlieb, William P./Wikimedia-Creative Commons

In the 1930s, Kansas City was a place where talent and history converged, resulting in a whole new sound that jazz aficionados continue to study today. But how does that past inform Kansas City's present day jazz scene?

Guests: / Creative Commons

Ben Webster hated to fly on airplanes.

When he went to Europe to perform for his fans across the Atlantic, the trip was one-way. 

A contemporary of Charlie Parker, Webster grew up in Kansas City, Mo., right off of 24th Street. He taught himself to play the piano at a young age, and started his career performing as a pianist for silent films. It wasn't until he was about 20 years old that he took up the saxophone.

Charlie Parker’s stature in the music world and in Kansas City wasn’t lost on his daughter . . . but for all his fame he was the man who held her hand and walked her as a terrified first-grader to school.

Kim Parker is in town as part of Kansas City’s celebration of her father.  She joins us to recollect more about her childhood with the legendary jazzman whose life she said was “bigger than anyone else’s.”

Wikipedia Commons

Kansas City is finally honoring jazz icon Charlie Parker with a two-week celebration that kicks off today. The celebration is centered on the occasion of what would have been Parker’s 94th birthday. It includes a 21-sax salute at Lincoln Cemetery where Parker is buried.

The sweet saxophone of Charlie Parker became legendary in jazz music, but the Kansas City hometown talent had a rocky life, with musical highlights and the lows of heroin addiction.

In the first part of Thursday's Up to Date, we talk with KCUR’s Chuck Haddix about Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, the new biography he’s written on Parker. We’ll examine the stories it brings to light about the troubled but talented musician, his meteoric rise and his steep fall. 


12 St. Jump

Charlie Parker’s birthday is coming up on August 29, and Kansas City has been known to show its locally grown sax legend many forms of tributes over the years.