Today would have been Charlie Parker's 87th birthday. Happy birthday, Bird, wherever you are.
Of course in Kansas City, and elsewhere, the celebration got started last Sunday. Every year on the Sunday closest to Parker's birthday, local jazz folks gather at his grave in Blue Summit's Lincoln Cemetery to play his music and remember. After failed attempts in 2005 and 2006, I made it to the event this year, fancy recording device in tow. I'm editing a piece about the event that should run on KCUR's KC Currents this Sunday at 5 (with a repeat on Monday at 8).
Update: Listen to "Jazz Fans Gather to Celebrate 'Bird'"
By most accounts, this year's turnout was good. The KC Star's Rich Montgomery put it at around 150 and I'm no good at those kinds of estimations so I'll go along. (For one local Casandra, it was cause for more yet more grousing about the dwindling audience for jazz. More flies with honey, Mr. Bag...)
The weather was good, as in not life threateningly hot, and spirits were generally high.
A nice moment came after the event was starting to break up. Local sax man and educator, Ahmad Alaadeen was showing off an alto sax he'd brought with him. He said it belonged to John Jackson, who played in the Jay McShann band with Parker. Since Parker was notorious for either losing or pawning his horns for drug money, Jackson often loaned this particular horn to Bird for gigs.
Bobby Watson, Gerald Dunn, Dennis Winslett and several other local sax players were standing around. Alaadeen handed the horn to Watson, who fingered the keys and declared to it to be "like butter." He blew a single note and handed it back to Alaadeen, then immediately made a show of rubbing his hands on his horn, as if trying to transferring the Parker mojo.
Can you blame him?
Photo above from talented flickr user yngrich used under a Creative Commons license.