Charlie Parker was renowned for his love of all types of music. Growing up in Kansas City he was exposed to the great swings sounds of jazz as well as to traditional jazz on the radio and records. When Yardbird arrived to New York City in the late 1930s, many of his colleagues ridiculed him for listening to country music and folkloric music from around the globe. As one of the architects of be-bop, Charlie became attracted to the new sounds of Afro-Cuban jazz played by Machito and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy’s Orchestra with Chano Pozo and others that were dubbed “cu-bop” by the legendary radio host, Symphony Sid. In 1948 Bird collaborated with the Machito band recording 6 songs. The following year pianist Walter Bishop Jr put together a Latin jazz quintet using percussionists from the Machito organization and called on Bird to be his alto saxophonist for the 6 sides he recorded. In 1950, the legendary jazz producer, label owner and empresario, Norman Granz enlisted Chico O’Farrill to conduct the Machito Afro-Cuban Orchestra, O’Farrill wrote the extended Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite as part of that session. At the recording session, trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison informed Chico that he was not up to playing his solo in a Latin style, Chico became bewildered not knowing what to do, Norman Granz reacted by saying, let’s call Bird. Fortunately Bird was home and he rushed to the studio. Without rehearsing and by listening to what Chico wanted, Bird recorded the Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite by sight reading with the rest of the band and his solo is one of the all-time great moments in music.
This Sunday, August 30, at 2 pm, Janine Santana, the host of Salsa con Jazz will play several tracks of the Latin side of Bird along with a few Latin versions of songs associated with Bird performed by others as KUVO jazz continues to celebrate the centennial of Charles Christopher Parker Jr—the immortal Bird!