Monday, October 7, 2013
Event Review: Chuck Haddix at Unity on the Plaza
I would pay $7 just to hear Chuck Haddix talk about Charlie Parker for 90 minutes. Throwing down that amount to hear Haddix's thoughts on Bird complemented with performances by several of Kansas City's most notable musicians represents a rare bargain. An audience of over 300 took advantage of the deal at Unity on the Plaza on Wednesday, October 2.
Haddix was promoting his new biography Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker. Plastic Sax reviewed the book last month. The event was part of Tim Whitmer's monthly Spirituality and All That Jazz series.
The evening began with the house band of pianist Whitmer, saxophonist Jim Mair, bassist James Albright and drummer Jurgen Welge playing "Autumn Leaves" and "My Little Suede Shoes." Mair floored me by making a bold statement with a Grafton saxophone on the latter selection. Unfortunately, his nod to Parker's infamous plastic sax won't be repeated anytime soon.
"I just sold it and I'm shipping it out tomorrow," Mair said.
Haddix read from his book and shared personal anecdotes about his relationship with Parker's music. He recalled initially failing to appreciate Parker's approach after he bought "a $2.99 cutout" album at the UMKC bookstore.
"I didn't get it," Haddix confessed.
He explained that the tall tales of bar owner Milton Morris played an instrumental role in fostering his understanding of Parker's legacy. Haddix reminded the audience of Parker's affection for "Cherokee" in his introduction to the standard. The format- Haddix's analysis of the evolution of Parker's career followed by a related performance- would continue for the remainder of the evening.
Accompanied by Albright and Welge, saxophone giant Bobby Watson, trumpeter Hermon Mehari and pianist Andrew Ouellette tore into "Cherokee." Watson stormed through the changes as if he was momentarily possessed by Parker. Watson's bluesy take on "Body and Soul" was brilliant. Mair returned to the stage for a lively rendition of "Jumpin' the Blues."
Watson and Mehari played impressive unison lines on "Yardbird Suite." "Groovin' High" and "Just Friends" were followed by a version of "Now's the Time" that closed the unique and entertaining event on a rapturous note.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)