Yardbird

August 31, 2020. Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” August 29th, 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the latter’s birth, and alto saxophonists Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, and Gary Bartz got a head start on celebrating earlier this year with Bird at 100—a worthy tribute to the man of insatiable appetites who became a God-like figure to the Beat generation and redefined jazz to mean the highest form of musical improvisation.

Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature. Like Louis Armstrong before him and just a few others since, he redrew the possibilities of the art form, and he did it with absolute panache.

August 24, 2020. Champian Fulton’s first paid gig was playing Clark Terry’s 75th birthday party. She was 10 years old. Now, at 35, the pianist and vocalist is more than just precocious and well-connected; she’s ambitious, too—averaging nearly one new release every year since her 2007 debut. But her latest, Birdsong, released to coincide with Charlie Parker’s centennial, might be her loosest and most joyful recording to date.

Charlie "Yardbird" Parker's music is a mainstay on WRTI, so obviously our jazz hosts get to hear a lot of his music ona regular basis. We've asked them to weigh in on their favorite songs from Bird, or favorite interpretation of his music from another artist. Here's what they had to say.

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD Is Not Your Father’s Opera

Apr 3, 2017

Opera Philadelphia's production of Charlie Parker's YARDBIRD tells the compelling story of a legendary jazz icon in a way that's meant to broaden and diversify opera’s audience. The role of saxophonist Charlie Parker was composed by Daniel Schnyder with tenor Lawrence Brownlee in mind.

Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater present Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, composed by Daniel Schnyder with a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly, in a New York premiere marking the first time opera is performed on the Apollo Theater stage, and the first time Opera Philadelphia produces in New York City. Listen on WRTI, Saturday, November 19th at 1 pm.

Charlie Parker Returns To The Apollo

Mar 28, 2016

Saxophonist Charlie Parker is returning to Harlem's Apollo Theater more than 60 yeas after his death thanks to Opera Philadelphia's production of Charlie Parker's Yardbird. The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reports from Harlem.

Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen once quipped: "The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition." But it's tough to see much gloom when faced with the diversity of premieres and provocative programming around the country in the 2014-2015 season.

An Opera About... Charlie Parker?

May 19, 2014

Whenever Charlie Parker played a solo, you knew you'd feel good by the end. Opera Philadelphia is jumping off an even higher dive - an opera about the celebrated saxophonist, titled Charlie Parker's Yardbird that the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reports will bring many unexpected things to the Perelman Theater at its 2015 premiere. 

Opera Philadelphia Gives Us: "The Bird"

Feb 12, 2014

Whenever Charlie Parker played a solo, you knew you'd feel good by the end. Opera Philadelphia is jumping off an even higher dive - an opera about the celebrated saxophonist, titled Charlie Parker's Yardbird that the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reports will bring many unexpected things to the Perelman Theater at its 2015 premiere.