2017-12-20 / Features

Birdman Cometh / A Second Fly-Over Queens

Charlie Parker c. 1947. 
Public domain Charlie Parker c. 1947. Public domain As above, so below.

High n’ above, the 20th century’s finest saloon singer and its swingingest alto saxophonist are boogeying this groove.

Thanks to the NYC Council’s recent repeal of an existing portion of the draconian 1926 Cabaret Law denizens in New York City are free to dance atop bar stools and amidst the sawdust, too.

Such was not always the case.

Indeed, crooner Frank Sinatra and jazz musician Charlie Parker were two iconic musical giants who vigorously protested against the Cabaret Law’s puntive impact plaguing the lives of thousands of singers and musicians within New York City.

Charlie Parker’s Cabaret Card was revoked in 1951 over his failure to notify the NYPD regarding a suspended sentence for heroin possession. Not until March 17, 1953 was his Cabaret Card reinstated, (not) too long before Parker’s death in New York on March 12, 1955 at the age of thirty-four.

Indeed, Ol’ Blue Eyes refused to perform in New York City stating in 1957, “I will not seek a cabaret card in New York because of the indignity of being fingerprinted, mugged and quizzed about my past.”

Issue 11 of the Newtown Literary Journal, Fall/Winter 2017, was launched before a standing and sitting, wall-to-wall full house at Kew & Willow Books (81-63 Lefferts Blvd.) on Friday night, December 8 in Kew Gardens.

Ironically that venue was half-notes away from actual reference points of Parker’s four weeks’ residency in Kew Gardens during a 1939 jazz gig.

The poem, “Birdman Cometh,” reflects the imagined voice of Charlie Parker, a veritable unknown circa 1939, a mere 10 years before the club Birdland would open, saluting the “Yardbird’s” singular accession atop the jazz galaxy.

Friday, December 15, 2017 marked the 68th anniversary of that historic debut of Birdland, with Charlie Parker as the headliner.

Raise a toast to two legendary master musicians, Messrs. Parker and Sinatra, as the latter often did at his front row seat at Birdland.

—Francie Scanlon

Birdman Cometh

You’re gonna hear from me. Quarrelsome Lane. Kew Gardens. Four-month gig.

If you weren’t there, then you will never know what you missed.

1939: Move over World’s Fair,

Queens subway, the future has arrived. I am here.

Do you hear my fingers barely sashaying over keys, sore lips, locked sweet sound.

With high-arched feet I play every instrument with stomp, swing and imaginative thing.

Who am I – train your reflexes for a non-stop flight on the archway of sound.

Disgorged from Kansas City, I will not travel west of Washington nor south of Chicago

Now’s the time, I’m told, but will I be bold enough to be all that I am for my legacy?

Destiny dies hard in my horn, sworn up with the ravage of heroin, no sparrow could spare.

Birdland won’t let me in on a comp yet what about me playing with “Strings”

Show-stopping, brightening tempos, top-shelf no twinkie “Lady Be Good”

A counter-pointer big be-bopper break through-er.

The “Yardbird Suite” can’t be beat

What is the flight for this yard of bird beyond the here and now.

Jazz not yet heard beyond imagination becoming soaring flying feverishly forever.

Charlie Parker
F.E. Scanlon
Newtown Literary Journal
Issue 11 / Fall/Winter 2017

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