Through August, Kansas City will be hosting events celebrating the 100th birthday of jazz hero Charlie Parker, the homegrown sax player who changed American music.
A free outdoor, socially-distanced concert on Fri., Aug. 7 will kick off the festivities at the historic Mutual Musicians Foundation, 1823 Highland, KCMO, the site of many legendary 18th and Vine-area jam sessions since 1918.
“Soulful Sounds of Summer: Charlie Parker Centennial Celebration” will feature songs associated with Parker as well as soulful music from Black cinema of the 1960s and ’70s. The concert is scheduled to run 5 to 9 p.m.
The event is co-sponsored by the Kemp McGee Arts Culture & Community Foundation. Organizers say there is no cost to attend and to bring your own lawn chairs. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Donations will be accepted to benefit programming for the Kemp McGee Foundation and the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
For safety, state and local guidelines for social distancing will be enforced. RSVP is strongly encouraged. RSVP online at www.kmaccfoundation.org/event-info/soulful-sounds-of-summer-charlie-parker-centennial-celebration.
Other events in August include more musical tributes, presentations, gallery showings, and a walking tour. For these events, visit www.livejazzkc.com/2020-event-schedule and spotlightcharlieparker.org.
Born in 1920 at 852 Freeman Avenue and later living near 15th and Olive streets, KCMO, Parker learned to play alto saxophone in the 1930s, during the rise of the Swing Era. He left to tour with pianist Jay McShann’s big band and later formed a famous partnership with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, popularizing the jazz style of Bebop in the 1940s.
Parker and Gillespie’s works, such as “Yardbird Suite” and “A Night in Tunisia,” were praised for showing that African Americans could write and play popular music that rivaled the complexity of European classical music and didn’t pander to audiences the way older Black artists had to.
Parker could play blazing fast and deep blue, and was a star attraction who performed in clubs and concerts internationally before dying of a heroin overdose in 1955. Nearly every year since then, musicians have gathered annually in Kansas City and New York to pay tribute.