OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Jazz lovers have a nearly endless number of events, performances and classes to attend throughout the month of August as part of a festival celebrating Kansas City, Kansas, native Charlie Parker and his influence on the musical genre.
The eighth annual series called “Spotlight: Charlie Parker” kicked off with a performance at The Phoenix and includes a film screening, parade, walking tour and musician bootcamp.
Chris “Mr. B” Burnett, a board member of KC Jazz Alive which coordinates the event, said Parker should be on the same pedestal as Mozart and Beethoven for his contributions to music. Parker, nicknamed Bird, would have turned 101 years old this month.
“Jazz represents to me all the cultures that make up the United States coming together and making a musical art from that is the only original art form that we’ve done in the history of the country,” Mr. B said. “We’ve borrowed from different cultural backgrounds, but jazz is the one thing that melds it all together.”
Mr. B takes pride in teaching that art form. He’s the artistic director for a “Bird Bootcamp” event Saturday, Aug. 21 in conjunction with the Spotlight series.
The free bootcamp allows teenagers to adults to learn techniques from renowned teachers and experts in the jazz genre. Saturday’s event goes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Folly Theater and is followed by a jam session at the Majestic restaurant.
Leavenworth, Kansas, High School junior Sam Walker will attend the bootcamp. The jazz pianist called Parker very influential to him and looks forward to learning more about his idol’s style during the bootcamp.
“The teachers get to pass the torch to the next generation,” Walker said. “They get to show me some tips. Some things maybe I won’t remember, but there is a lot that I will, that will impact me for the rest of my life and my music career.”
Visit the event’s website in order to register in advance for the Bird Bootcamp.
Other highlights include a walking tour through the 18th and Vine Jazz District on Aug. 28. The next day, organizers will host a homecoming celebration complete with a parade to recognize the return of Parker's Grafton saxophone which had been on display in Walt Disney World since February.
A list of events celebrating Parker throughout this month can be found online.