Daniel Schnyder’s Jazz fused abstract opera Yardbird, pays homage to Jazz bebop pioneer Charlie Parker played by American tenor Lawrence Brownlee who puts in stellar vocal performance as the flawed genius.

His friends, lovers and family experience a rollercoaster of emotions as they struggle to deal with his passing, with Parker himself stuck in limbo compromised by his own creative brilliance.

Set after the death of Parker whose spirit still haunts Birdland, he struggles to compose one last masterpiece before inevitably letting go to leave his friends and family for good.

The production begins with Parker’s dead remains lying covered in the morgue and Brownlee suddenly appearing on stage – treating the audience to his classical operatic vocal range setting the tone for the rest of the play.

In fact all of the cast give an accomplished solid vocal performance none more so than Parker’s mother Addie played by (Angela Brown) whose heartfelt and impassioned moments are a particular highlight.  

The seductive and alluring Chan his fourth wife played by Rachel Sterrenberg also catches the eye with her flamboyant entrance. With the vintage outfits and smoky stage really capturing the noir atmosphere of 50s Birdland perfectly.

Those expecting to hear the bebop sound that made Parker an icon may be disappointed that they are not given an example of his revolutionary style of Jazz. However Schnyder should be commended for creating a unique production in the spirit of how yardbird masterfully improvised his masterpieces.


Yardbird ran at Hackney Empire, London, until 17 June.