Monday, August 29, 2011

These Guys Were Born On The Same Day?

Although 19th century author-lecturer Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain were both born on the 29th of August, the contemporaneous fun fact that floors me much more is the duo from the world of music who share this birthday: Charlie Parker (1920-1955) and Michael Jackson (1958-2009).

Charlie Parker, the saxophonist, songwriter and bandleader (A.K.A. "Bird", Yardbird", etc.) passed away 55 years ago, after turning the post-WW2 jazz world on its collective ear. Here's one of the few existing clips of Charlie, playing soulfully following a strong solo by legendary swing icon Coleman Hawkins.

The links between Charlie Parker and Michael Jackson are many and the degrees of separation surprisingly few. Miles Davis, who played alongside Bird in the late 1940's Charlie Parker Quintet, worked extensively with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.

Parker Miles and Michael all crossed paths with Quincy Jones, a giant of 20th century pop and jazz who began his career as a brass player and arranger. At one point Quincy played in the same orchestra with the trumpet virtuoso who was the closest thing to a "Bird" of the brass, Clifford Brown (1931-1956), as well as in the ensemble of formidable bop era composer-arranger-pianist Tadd Dameron. Quincy's production genius complemented Jackson's vision as Sir George Martin's gave The Beatles an expanded tonal palette to get creative with.

In another way, the King Of Bop and the King Of Pop - one famous today primarily among musicians, historians and jazz fans, the other plagued by mega-celebrity on an insane scale - share a certain polarizing "you love 'em or you hate 'em" place in 20th century culture. Their music either transports to the stratosphere or leaves a person cold.

This blog tips the Jimmie Hatlo hat to Mr. Parker and Mr. Jackson, who, irregardless of their flaws and difficulties as human beings, brought joy to millions around the world through their music - and still do. One hopes that in the next world they found some measure of peace that clearly eluded them in this one.

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