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188 Sullivan: Great Minds Think Alike

Seattle Opera and the Royal Room are proud to present "188 Sullivan: Charlie Parker’s New York in the ‘50s", an evening celebrating the innovation and virtuosity of Charlie Parker on Monday, February 24th. Seattle Modern Orchestra, conducted by Julia Tai and featuring guest clarinetist James Falzone, will present composer Wayne Horvitz’s new work 188 Sullivan: Varèse Meets Bird, an homage to the meetings between Parker and Edgard Varèse featuring motifs found within Parker’s works, written for five strings, piano, percussion, electronics, and clarinet. The D’Vonne Lewis Quartet will perform celebrated favorites of Charlie Parker. Finally, soprano Angela Brown – Charlie Parker’s mother Addie in Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, opening Saturday, February 22nd at Seattle Opera – will perform Discography, a spoken word piece by YARDBIRD librettist Bridgette A. Wimberly for singer and small jazz ensemble. This event has been an exciting partnership between The Royal Room, South Hudson Music Project, Seattle Opera, KNKX, and Earshot Jazz, and we can't wait for all the amazing music to come.


The Lessons That Never Were During the 1950s, Greenwich Village neighbors Charlie Parker and Edgard Varèse were on the forefront of innovation in their genres: Parker championed the bebop movement in jazz, while Varèse experimented with electronic sound and new instruments in classical composition. Though the genres are broadly considered diametric, both composers maintained a healthy respect for the style of the other: both excelled in fast tempos, frequent key changes, and operating within a harmonic structure that defied the standard tonality in Western music, requiring their audiences to focus on the complexities of each instrument and solo line.

Long thought to be an admirer of Varèse, Parker met with him several times in 1954 at his residence at 188 Sullivan Street to discuss the possibility of lessons. “Take me in as you would a baby,” Parker implored of Varèse, “and teach me music. I only write one voice. I want to have structure. I want to write orchestral scores.” Parker himself had been influenced by the tumultuous music of Stravinsky and had a dream to unify jazz and classical music into a new genre; he loved the idea of playing with a string section and recorded Charlie Parker with Strings, a session of six ballads recorded with chamber and jazz orchestras. Varèse recalled that “[Parker] was so nice, and so modest, and he had such a tone. You could not know if it was an angelic double bass, a saxophone, or a bass clarinet … I promised myself I would try to find some time to show him some of the things he wanted to know.” Unfortunately, the lessons never occurred: Varèse returned to Paris and complete his work on his piece Desèrts, and Parker suffered a heart attack and died of complications prior to Varèse’s return in 1955. While we may never know what collaborations may have arisen from their lessons, Varèse continued to be influenced by jazz throughout the remainder of his career, and attended jazz sessions with Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Teo Macero, and other illustrious contemporaries of Parker.


188 Sullivan: Charlie Parker's New York in the '50s is Monday, February 24th at the Royal Room.

Doors open at 6pm, music starts at 7:30.

$15 adv/$20 dos/$10 student with ID. Tickets available online through The Stranger.

For reservations and guaranteed seating, please make a reservation through the Royal Room.

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