This week, it’s all about Charlie Parker.
In the city where the pioneer of modern jazz first learned his way around an alto saxophone, it hasn’t always been that way. But this year, during the runup to his Aug. 29 birthday, we’re doing something about that oversight.
The group KC Jazz Alive has put together a Charlie Parker Celebration, the first sizable community effort on behalf of Parker’s memory and achievements in this town in too many years.
The celebration features more than two solid weeks of performances and discussions dedicated to the Bird, the finest musician this town has ever produced, a man who opened spaces that every musician in jazz since that time simply has to pass through.
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Take a look at this week’s list of events honoring Parker (who lived from 1920 to 1955):
Thursday, Aug. 14: A panel discussion on Parker with American Jazz Museum CEO Greg Carroll, Bird biographer Chuck Haddix and saxophone wizards Bobby Watson and Horace Washington. From 6 to 9 p.m. at the museum.
Friday, Aug. 15: Reed man Todd Wilkinson’s quartet performs from 4 to 7 p.m. at Chaz in the Raphael Hotel, 325 Ward Parkway.
Saturday, Aug. 16: Haddix presents a tour of sites that played a significant role in Parker’s life and development, starting at 1 p.m. at the American Jazz Museum. Tickets are $15; see AmericanJazzMuseum.com or call 816-474-6262.
Saturday, Aug. 16: Pianist Joe Cartwright’s group performs at 8 p.m. at 12 Baltimore in the Hotel Phillips, 106 W. 12th St.
Sunday, Aug. 17: The Foundation 627 Big Band performs at 8 p.m. at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd.
Monday, Aug. 18: Vibraphonist Peter Schlamb and his quartet perform at 7 p.m. at the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., followed by a jam session.
Tuesday, Aug. 19: Trumpeter Hermon Mehari performs at 6 p.m. at the Majestic Restaurant, 921 Broadway.
Wednesday, Aug. 20: Pianist-singer Alice Jenkins and bassist Robert Scagliotti perform at 6:30 p.m. at Cafe Trio, 4558 Main St.
That’s just the beginning of the Bird celebration. Before it ends Aug. 30, highlights will include Bobby Watson in a jam with singer George V. Johnson at the Blue Room; an innovative puppet show on jazz history at the Gem Theater; a musical boot camp for students; and the return of the 21-sax salute at Parker’s grave.
Admittedly, the Parker celebration could be bigger. A lot of those gigs in this first week are regularly scheduled affairs. Then again, making people more aware that there’s so much jazz going on around town all the time should be one of the points the celebration makes.
In a town with a history of disorganized Parker events, where some years have passed with no Parker celebrations at all, even a modest Bird festival is an achievement. This is a good start. And it gets bigger and better next week. Check this space next week for more information or go to KCJazzAlive.org.
Bassist Ben Leifer brings in his Plus Minus band for the next show on the Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, having conquered the concert hall, wants to conquer the dance floor too. The big band, directed by Clint Ashlock, plays a swing dance from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Knuckleheads Saloon, 2715 Rochester Ave. Tickets are $18.50 in advance, $25 at the door; call 816-483-1456 or visit KnuckleheadsHonkyTonk.com.
Vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, one of the young guys making positive things happen in Kansas City music, has finished his first CD as leader. The CD release party for “Tinks” is at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the downstairs Orion Room at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd. The band features bassist Karl McComas-Reichl, drummer Sean Mullins, Mehari and pianist Andrew Ouellette.
The Blue Room also has pianist T.J. Martley’s group with tenor saxophonist Matt Otto at 7 p.m. Thursday; saxophonist Randy Hamm and the Missouri State University faculty jazz ensemble at 8:30 p.m. Friday; and the Vine Street Rumble big band, capturing the sound of Kansas City in the 1930s, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, include happy hour with pianist-singer Candace Evans at 4:30 p.m. Friday, followed by drummer Steve Hall’s group with singer Laura Chalk at 7 p.m.; singer Havilah Bruders at 7 p.m. Saturday; and the vocal group Book of Gaia, with Angela Hagenbach, Pamela Baskin-Watson and Nedra Dixon, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge include organist Chris Hazelton’s trio at 9 p.m. Thursday; Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 band at 10 p.m. Friday; pianist Eddie Moore and his Outer Circle band at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by Schlamb at 8:30 p.m. and organist Ken Lovern’s trio at 10 p.m.; drummer John Kizilarmut’s trio at 9 p.m. Monday; organist Everette DeVan at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Bram Wijnands and his B-3 Bombers at 9 p.m.; and Lovern’s trio again at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has trumpeter Clint Ashlock’s Forward band at 8 p.m. Friday and tenor saxophonist Rich Wheeler’s quartet at 8 p.m. Saturday.