Charlie “Bird” Parker. The name may be familiar, but his accomplishments might not. This weekend — Aug. 29 — is his 101st birthday. As tribute, we’re detailing his biggest accomplishment + getting into the swing of things with ways to celebrate.
Parker was born in Kansas City in 1920. As a young musician, he cut his teeth in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District. In an era where other KC musicians — Count Basie and Bennie Moten — were playing swing, Parker found a new sound.
What is bebop?
Bebop is a subgenre of jazz that includes complex chords, harmonies, and melodies. The name “bebop” comes from a vocalized imitation of the music — like an onomatopoeia. Parker became known for his mastery of bebop while in New York and rose to fame touring in Europe.
Charlie Parker’s nickname, “Bird”
One more thing. His nickname, “Bird,” has a few origin stories. One account says he loved to eat chicken, which he called, “yardbird.” Other reports suggest he hit a chicken with his touring van. Still, others attribute the “bird” symbolism to his freestyle way of living and playing music.
Ways to celebrate in KC
Want to celebrate the life, history, and rich culture Parker left behind? KC Jazz Alive has a weekend of activities planned. Here are a few ways you can “Spotlight Charlie Parker.”
- Lonnie McFadden “All About Bird” | Fri., Aug. 27 | 7-10 p.m. | Lonnie’s Reno Club, 1111 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO | Free with reservation, walk-ins after 8:30 with a $25 cover | A master performer, known for his jazz trumpet, tap dancing + singing.
- Early Bird: Charlie Parker at 18th and Vine Walking Tour | Sat., Aug. 28 | 10 a.m.-12 p.m. | East 18 Street & Highland Avenue | $25 | See Parker’s old stomping grounds. ProTip: Check-in at 9:45.
- Kansas City Jazz Orchestra – Alto Madness | Sun., Aug. 29 | 7-9 p.m. | THE BLACK BOX, 1060 Union Ave., Kansas City, MO | $20+ | Acclaimed jazz group honors “the patron saint of bebop” at a West Bottoms art hub.
See Spotlight Charlie Parker’s master event schedule.