Sunday, July 23, 2017
Album Review: The Passion of Charlie Parker
F#ck you, Kansas City.
I paid dues, Kansas City.
I ain’t gonna pay them no more.
Outta here, Kansas City.
I want to let you know that it was wrong,
How you all treated your son.
Such a penny ante city to be from.
Kansas City’s civic boosters and jazz pollyannas won’t care for “So Long (Exodus to New York City),” a scathing track on The Passion of Charlie Parker. The fascinating new song cycle includes Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of a disgusted Parker bidding adieu to his hometown.
Producer Larry Klein has suggested that he and his collaborators “created a musical play that... follows the narrative arc of (Parker’s) life” by adding new lyrics and intriguing arrangements to familiar Parker compositions. Although he’s best known as an actor, Wright is even more memorable than star vocalists including Kurt Elling, Melody Gardot, Madeleine Peyroux and Gregory Porter on The Passion of Charlie Parker.
The singers’ names appear on the cover of the album, but the real star of the project is saxophonist Donny McCaslin. As he demonstrated at the Folly Theater in April, McCaslin has an adventurous spirit that evokes Parker’s innovations. The most compelling selections of The Passion of Charlie Parker recall Blackstar, McCaslin’s celebrated collaboration with David Bowie.
In the guise of Parker, Wright tells unimaginative Kansas Citians that “your expectations fall short of my intentions, motherf#ckers.” He was right. Accordingly, The Passion of Charlie Parker is likely to surpass even the most auspicious assumptions of sympathetic listeners in Kansas City.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)