Sunday, August 17, 2014
I've lived in the Kansas City area for decades but Saturday was the first opportunity I've had to take a curated tour of sites associated with Charlie Parker.
When I purchased a ticket for the American Jazz Museum's one-off "Parker Historical Tour" through Ticketmaster for $25, I didn't think I'd learn much. I was simply eager to participate in one of the signature events of this month's "A Charlie Parker Celebration" initiative.
After devouring the new Charlie Parker biographies by Stanley Crouch (Plastic Sax review) and Chuck Haddix (Plastic Sax review) and having already spent an unhealthy amount of time at locations including Lincoln Cemetery, I figured I was qualified to give the tour as I boarded the 30-seat trolley car on Saturday afternoon.
I'd severely underestimated the value of having Haddix along for the ride. An excellent tour guide, Haddix conjured long-demolished structures at empty lots and summoned vivid nightlife on vacant street corners.
The tour stopped at two midtown residences, former venues in midtown and the Plaza, the site of Penn School, the former Paseo Hall, the sites of Addie Parker's homes near 15th & Olive and the Parker graves in Lincoln Cemetery. The tour did not include the location of Parker's birthplace in Kansas City, Kansas, or the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
Following the two-hour outing, ticket holders were treated to appetizers in the Blue Room. Mike Corrigan of B.A.C. Horn Doctors presented the American Jazz Museum with a replica of the first cornet owned by Louis Armstrong prior to a performance by Vine Street Rumble.
If even a cavalier critic found the expedition informative and entertaining, it's almost certain that anyone with a passing interest in Parker or in the history of Kansas City would appreciate it even more.