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Charlie Parker: Now's the Time

We celebrate the centennial of a jazz icon with his music and that spirit — 24 hours of events across 92Y’s programming centers — no boundary lines.

Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Jack Kerouac’s poetry. Graphic designers and typographers, tap dancers and choreographers, a 16-year-old guitar student, circa 2020 — all propelled by the music of Charlie Parker. When an artist truly revolutionizes their art form, neither form nor era can contain their influence. Charlie “Bird” Parker was that artist, revolutionizing the language of jazz, and sending waves across creativity and culture.

Charlie Parker: Now’s the Time

To mark Charlie Parker’s centennial on August 29, 2020, we’re embracing not only his extraordinary music, but the breadth of his influence. CHARLIE PARKER: NOW’S THE TIME celebrates this giant of jazz as 92Y is uniquely equipped to do, with online events across our multiple programming areas, bringing together extraordinary talent from the worlds of music, dance, visual art and film.

Yana Stotland, Director of 92Y's School of Music, spearheaded the celebration. “92Y brings something to this important centennial that no one else really could — first, with our expansive programming range and the talent we are fortunate to work with across a broad cross-section of the arts; second, with the deep experience we have gained since the pandemic began, having been among the very first institutions to adapt to — and become adept at — online classes and Zoom events.”

A conversation with music, a film screening, a world-premiere dance performance, and more

Music, naturally, is at the heart of our celebration. A central event will be a conversation-with-music hosted by eminent jazz journalist and author of Celebrating Bird, Gary Giddins, leading a quartet of four of today's most esteemed saxophonists: Joe Lovano, Charles McPherson (who played Parker's solos in Clint Eastwood's film Bird), Grace Kelly and Antonio Hart, with musical performances and an exploration of Parker’s influence and legacy.

And we’ll have a listening party of Parker’s most definitive tracks. Illustrating the scope of Parker’s influence will be a visual arts workshop, with participants spontaneously creating art to Parker’s music, the world premiere of a Parker-inspired dance film by Hope Boykin, formerly of the Ailey Company, and an exclusive screening of Clint Eastwood’s award-winning biopic Bird. The 24-hour festival includes events timed to reach the worldwide jazz audience streaming makes possible.

Stotland, who has been running 92Y’s School of Music for 10 years, is a Russian-Jewish classically trained pianist. “My musical upbringing was as Eastern European as it gets. I knew nothing about jazz until I met my jazz musician husband almost 30 years ago, when he was working on his masters degree and studying with tenor sax great Jimmy Heath,” she says. “He’d come home from gigs at 2 am, and I’d have spent the night with his CDs and albums, listening and beginning to really understand the music. Parker’s genius was so monumental. He didn’t just express himself in new ways. He changed the language.”

More jazz this month

92Y has been a home for jazz for more than 60 years, presenting musicians as groundbreaking as Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Jim Hall, Sarah Vaughan, McCoy Tyner, Wynton Marsalis, and many more. It’s been celebrated in our Jazz in July series for 34 years — first under founder and artistic director Dick Hyman, and continuing under the artistic direction of Bill Charlap — and it’s heated up our stage on winter nights, with concerts presenting genre-bending artists like Chick Corea, evenings of Latin jazz and more. In a time when going out to hear live jazz just isn’t possible, we’re thrilled to be sharing free livestreams next weekend of five concerts not seen or heard since the nights they took place on our stage. Our “Jazz Weekend” (August 14-17) will feature concerts from four NEA Jazz Masters: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paquito D’Rivera, Dick Hyman with Bill Charlap, and Eddie Palmieri, and highlights from one of the most electric jazz concerts ever on our stage with pianist Renee Rosnes, the incomparable vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, and the all-star supergroup Artemis. Every one of these musicians would acknowledge the influence of Charlie Parker on their artistry.

Stotland’s now long-established appreciation of Parker permeates her role as an educator. Asked about what makes his influence so great to many of her School of Music students more than 65 years after his seminal performances and recordings, Stotland says, “Everyone starts there. Every jazz musician worth their salt — 50 years ago, 20 years ago, last week — listens to Charlie Parker. They listen because there is so much to learn. Parker was so astonishingly innovative, and young artists — in any medium — are always looking for ways to innovate and create something new. We look at history to decide how we’re going to push things forward. ‘Now is the Time.’ Because in art, now is always the time.”

Special underwriting support for the centennial celebration of Charlie Parker was generously provided by Jody and John Arnhold, Helaine Klieger and Reba Kasten Nosoff.

Please note that all 92Y regularly scheduled in-person programs are suspended.