Bird Lives SWR Big Band, Magnus Lindgren & John Beasley
- 1Cherokee - Koko08:44
- 3Scrapple from the Apple05:48
- 4I'll Remember April05:14
- 6Donna Lee06:59
- 8Overture to Bird04:18
Info for Bird Lives
On the occasion of Charlie Parker's 100th birthday in 2020, “Bird Lives” opens, produces and records a new, orchestral view of his music. Played by one of the best big bands in Europe, arranged by Magnus Lindgren and John Beasley and with a squad of top-class guests, some of whom have received Grammy Awards, such as Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Miguel Zenon, Tia Fuller and many more.
2020 wasn’t just Beethoven’s year, it was also the centenary of Charlie Parker’s birth. And if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the world would have seen notices of all kinds of major concerts to celebrate the legacy of Bird (as Charlie Parker was known), one of the giants of jazz; one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century; the co-inventor of bebop; and probably the most important and influential saxophonist in jazz.
The "Bird Lives" music on this new album was to have been recorded and premiered by the SWR Big Band a couple of months before Charlie Parker’s 100th anniversary, which was on August 29, 2020. The world premiere was scheduled at the iconic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles - which seats 18,000 people - with co-arranger and conductor, John Beasley and his six-time GRAMMY-award nominated MONK’estra Big Band with a string section during the week leading up to Bird’s centenary. Both of those dates were lost to Covid, but the recording, a commission from the SWR Big Band, and with a stellar roster of guest artists, was able to develop at a much more measured pace. When safety rules permitted, the musicians met to record in Stuttgart mid November 2020.
The extra time enabled the collaborative partnership of Swedish saxophonist Magnus Lindgren and American pianist John Beasley as co-arrangers to imagine further and dive deeper. Lindgren and Beasley met at the Jakarta Jazz Festival in Indonesia 5 years ago. That sparked an invitation to have Sweden’s Blue House Big Band to play MONK’estra’s music. A bond was formed because of the mutual admiration for each other’s unique style of arranging. Both musicians were keen to find a project to work seamlessly together in the unusual guise of co-arrangers. "For both of us it was our first time arranging as a team," Lindgren points out. "We sent ideas and drafts back and forth between Stockholm and Los Angeles. We actually didn’t have many suggestions about each other’s writing because it was so fresh and had the bang-on feel we aimed for." Five of the eight tracks on the album are co-arrangements. "It was a very creative way to make music, " says John Beasley. "Two was more magical than one for "Bird Lives". As we were all in lockdown, working so closely with Lindgren, who has such a ripe musical mind, it surely was more fun but kept me sane."
Magnus Lindgren was voted Sweden's best jazz musician in 2001, he has gone on to win many important prizes internationally. He says: "When I started playing the saxophone at 13, Charlie Parker was my ultimate hero, so this project really does bring me full circle." Lindgren has been Artist in Residence with the SWR Big Band since 2018, a post which has been renewed for him for another three years. He has overseen an ongoing development in the band’s sound both through reinforcing its engagement as a specialist ensemble in orchestral jazz, and also by exploring various projects involving modern reinterpretations and makeovers of works from the jazz/big band canon.
John Beasley’s work as composer-arranger and pianist extends beyond jazz into film and television, notably alongside Thomas Newman working on "1917", James Bond: "Skyfall" and "Spectre". Beasley has nine GRAMMY nominations and won Best Arrangement for Charlie Parker’s "Donna Lee" in 2021. Beasley is Music Director for International Jazz Day global gala concerts hosted by the Herbie Hancock Jazz Institute. His 2016 "Jazz in the White House" earned Beasley an Emmy nomination for Best Musical Direction.
Based in Stuttgart, the SWR Big Band was founded in 1951 and from its early days has been known as the "Daimler of the big bands" - a reference to the fact that Stuttgart is Motor City. The band has been ranked among the best jazz orchestras in the world for many years, with four Grammy nominations. It has attracted a roll call of stellar guests, from Miles Davis and Chet Baker in the early days to Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jacob Collier much more recently.
"Bird Lives" sits firmly in this tradition, of the SWR Band wanting – and making sure they present – the absolute best in music. The guest artists on "Bird Lives", speaks to getting the A-list of saxophonists to pay tribute to Charlie Parker. On the opening track, multiple Jazz Critics poll-winner Chris Potter makes a mark with his inimitable sound and his flawless technique. Tia Fuller was musical director for Esperanza Spalding and solo projects like "Angelic Warrior" contributes an amazingly laid-back modern version of "Summertime".
Then, two tracks on, we hear the great Joe Lovano letting his tenor sax hover over "I'll Remember April" with the particular warmth, softness, and expressive breadth that are uniquely his. Miguel Zenón brings a Latin touch and rhythm to Parker's "Donna Lee"; and sax-great Charles McPherson who toured with Mingus plays luminously and meltingly in "Laura", the song from the 1945 film with the same title. The French singer Camille Bertault is a new and rising vocalist. Her supreme craft and agility is heard here in a direct vocal transcribe of Charlie Parker's "Koko".
"Bird Lives" feels like a soundtrack for an imaginary film co-written by Lindgren and Beasley. The SWR Big Band performs with a string section of 10 players, but this recording is not a re-creation of Parker’s "Bird With Strings" albums. "We wanted to introduce new generations to Bird’s music, but we also wanted Bird fans to hear his music in a fresh and new approach," Beasley explains, noting that near the end of his life, Parker idolised Edgard Varese and was longing to bring more structure, depth and variety into the way he wrote for orchestra. "We didn't want to repeat what that has been done before, but rather create something different," adds Lindgren.
The choice of compositions is true to the duo’s aim: there are Parker originals such as "Scrapple from the Apple," bursting with bebop, there are also some of his favourite standards, such as the opening "Cherokee/Koko" mash-up and the grand finale "Overture to Bird". But above all the great arrangements suit the context: they not only play to the strengths of the classic big band and of Parker's endlessly inventive music, but also enhance them with newer stylistic elements, such as a joyous celebratory funk reading of "Confirmation".
Charlie Parker was still in the early stages of working with orchestras when he died at the tragical early age of 34. "Bird Lives" may chart territory fulfilled dreams that Parker was not able to explore in his short lifetime. This recording has nothing of the "museum-piece" about it: this is music both of and for our time.
SWR Big Band & Strings Magnus Lindgren, music director, flute, tenor saxophone
John Beasley, piano, keyboards
Guests:Chris Potter, tenor saxophone
Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone
Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone
Tia Fuller, alto saxophone
Charles McPherson, alto saxophone
Camille Bertault, vocals
Pedrito Martinez, percussion
Munyungo Jackson, percussion
is highly competent and well-respected as a Soloist on Tenor Saxophone, Flute and Clarinet. He is also a prolific Music Arranger, Composer and Conductor, working on countless musical arrangements and compositions for Big Bands, Symphonic Orchestras and various other ensemble formats. In the European Jazz scene he continues to work more and more as a Performing Conductor.
Lindgren has collaborated with countless established and respected Artists such as: Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter, James Ingram, Bobby McFerrin, David Foster, Take 6, Larry Carlton, Ivan Lins (Brazil), Till Brönner (Germany), Nicola Conte (Italy), Barbara Hendricks, Marie Fredriksson (Roxette, Sweden), Martin Fröst (Sweden), Ola Onabule (UK), John Beasley, John Patitucci, Ed Motta (Brazil), Youn Sun Nah (South Corea), Malena Ernman (Sweden), John Scofield, Chiara Civello (Italy) and many others.
Some of the major Orchestras he has worked with as a Soloist/Conductor/Arranger/Composer in his home Country of Sweden and Internationally, include: SWR Big Band (Stuttgart Radio Big Band, with Magnus as Artist-in-Residence from 2018 for 3 years).
HR Big Band (Frankfurt Radio Big Band), WDR Big Band (Cologne radio big band), Bohuslän Big Band (Gothenburg Sweden), Blue House Jazz Orchestra (Big Band Concerthouse Stockholm , with Magnus as Artist-In-resedence in 2004), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Big Band (Hamburg Radio Big Band), Bielefeld Symphony Orchestra, Latvian Radio Big Band, Norrbotten Big Band (Sweden), Malmö Opera Ochestra (Sweden), Västerås Sinfonietta (Sweden), Swedish chamber orchestra (Örebro, Sweden), Gävle symfoniorkester (Sweden), Wermland Operas Orkester, Dalasinfoniettan, KORK (Norway), The Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin, Gustaf Sjökvists kammarkör (Choir, Sweden), Orphei Drängar (Male choir, Sweden), Male Voice Choir MM (Finland), Monday Night Big Band (Sweden), Stockholm Jazz Orchestra (Sweden).
As a Musician and Composer, Magnus carries a vision to continuously explore the limitless possibilities when painting with ‘Self-composed’ and ‘Classical music’ brushes, an approached that was also explored by his role models such as Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, who are part of his influence in his efforts to dig deeper into the universal world of music.
Whether it is a small Jazz ensemble, a Big Band, Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Swedish folk tunes or the Brazilian Samba, Magnus has made it a career goal to maintain a playful attitude plus improvisation as tools that he uses to go in and out of different musical frameworks. These are also traits that have been consistent since his musical journey began at the age of 6. This naive child-like approach to creating music and improvising is the content thread in all his projects.
Around the age of 10, in his childhood town of Västerås, Magnus’ father ran a Music Store. This is where Magnus began experimenting with playing various instrument, which later afforded him the ability to substitute different instruments in his Band.
During his Undergraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm (1992 – 1997), Magnus formed his own Big Band as well as a Jazz Quartet. This is where his inspiration and interest in composing for both small and large ensembles began to formulate. At the age of 18, he also got to play with his role model, the iconic Herbie Hancock through the Stockholm Jazz Festival (1993).
In 1999 Magnus received the “Jazz in Sweden” Award, a Swedish music prize that enabled him to record and launch his own album, “Way Out”. That was the start of Magnus’ own Jazz Quartet, which did a number of international tours, as well as winning the first prize at the Getxo International Jazz Festival 2000.
In 2001 Magnus Lindgren released the album, “Paradise Open”, an offering of his own compositions and arrangements for Big Band. This release opened many opportunities for Magnus, as it became an important work in the Swedish Jazz scene by winning at the Swedish Grammis, the Orchestra Journal’s The Golden Disc and receiving a great stamp of approval by Sweden’s Radio Listeners’ prize – Jazzkatten. In this Project he brought together a new generation of young and skilled Jazz Musicians, some of whom have established themselves as some of Sweden’s highly respected musicians.
Magnus has continued to be an in demand Collaborator, working with various outstanding Projects that include Nils Landgren’s Funk Unit, the Nicola Conte Combo, the Till Brönner Band. With his Quartet they also worked for several years with the opera singer, Barbara Hendricks, doing the Gershwin and the Billie Holiday songbooks. At the 2003 Nobel Prize Banquet, Magnus wrote and performed all the music as a Soloist leading his Quartet and the Stockholm Sinfonietta. This was broadcast live to millions of television viewers around the world, and the first to feature a Jazz musician at this prestigious Event.
Magnus has a repeat performance at the 2016 Nobel Prize Banquet, this time together with Clarinetist Martin Fröst and The Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
The album “Batucada Jazz” (2009) was the result of Magnus’s enormous passion and inspiration for Brazilian music and tradition. It was his International breakthrough. His own melodic world integrated with Brazilian rhythms and was written and recorded in Brazil with some of the foremost Brazilian Musicians such as Leonardo Amuedo, Armando Marçal and Kiko Kontinentino. For several years Magnus toured with this project both in Asia, South America and Europe. The album was also nominated for a Swedish Grammis in 2010.
The album “Fyra”, released in 2012, was a regular jazz album with his own songs, where Magnus collected an exciting combination of musicians such as legendary bass player Palle Danielsson. It was also well received by important platforms such as the Jazz magazine “Downbeat”. “Fyra” was also nominated for a Swedish Grammis. In 2017 Magnus releases the album “Stockholm Underground” on the German record label ACT, featuring Magnus’ unique approach to playing the Flute. This Project paid homage to the jazz flute Master, Herbie Mann and his “Memphis Underground” Project, where Jazz and R&B blended together. Magnus continues to tour with the “Stockholm Underground” Band regularly.
In 2019, Magnus performed to an audience of 30,000 people, conducting and playing with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, featuring Trumpeter Till Brönner, a close confidant of Magnus’, who played an important role in Magnus’ establishment through their various collaborations, touring internationally with various Orchestra sizes where Magnus had arranged Till Brönner’s music.