The Bird is the Word

Every year the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival spreads the love between Harlem and the East Village. Saturday’s lineup is uptown in the Marcus Garvey amphitheater where you are usually assured of a view of the stage, and Sunday is downtown in Tompkins Square Park where people spill out from deck chairs over the lawns and around the gardens between Hari Krishna drummers, fried chicken stands and the dog run. People found a spot where they could, sitting, standing and meandering between sun and leafy shade. In the end it didn’t really matter if you had a good view, so long as you could hear. The atmosphere took care of everything else.

Sheila Jordan was headlining and the darling of the stage. At 85 she was not only a contemporary and friend of Charlie Parker but performed with him and followed him to New York – inspiring his song Following the Bird. It was as though she was channeling him as she sang If I should lose you, and it was amazing to have a legend sing about a legend with the energy and groove that only a lifetime of jazz could deliver. (Interestingly, Sheila didn’t start working full time in music until she was 58 years old, so there’s hope for some of us yet… )

The atmosphere in the park really made the day for me. Couples danced and people tapped and the cool vibes made it a great day to be alive. Music even came from paper – at least that was what Sir Shadow told me. He puts jazz on paper in one continuous line – his pen does not lift – and hums all the while. When I asked him what the music was, he said he just sang what the paper told him. By the look of the outcome that was Charlie Parker alive and well…


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3 Responses to The Bird is the Word

  1. Jenny Crimmins says:

    Never thought we would be following USA (well maybe only NY) this much and enjoying it.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I would love to hear the singing.? the whole scene was just to make me want to be there

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