Monday 6th January 2020
- Tuesday 7th January 2020
£25.00 - £42.50
SIGAMOS STRINGS: MARIANNE HAYNES, ROS STEPHENS violin; REIAD CHIBAH viola; LAURA ANSTEE cello
Unclassifiable, charismatic, a central figure on the British and world jazz scenes, Gilad Atzmon performs a homage to arguably the greatest saxophonist in jazz history, Charlie Parker.
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. Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1920, but "Bird" was arguably born during a jam session at the city's Reno Club in 1937. Invited to play with Count Basie's drummer Jo Jones, 16-year-old Parker began a promising solo over George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" — and bricked on the chord changes. Jones threw a cymbal that clashed at Parker's feet; the audience jeered. Instead of giving up the horn, he practiced harder than ever and moved to New York City in 1939 to prove his mettle.
One night that year, Parker woodshedded the Ray Noble song "Cherokee" with the guitarist William "Biddy" Fleet and had a eureka moment. "I'd been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used all the time," he later told Down Beat. "By using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I'd been hearing. I came alive." Armed with this new knowledge, Parker composed pieces that went on to be standards, like "Yardbird Suite," "Chasin' the Bird" and "Ornithology."
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.
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." And Parker's popularity continues to grow. Today, one of his saxophones is on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and culture in Washington, D.C. — an enduring reminder that America will always have a "Bird" in its hand.