Parker fans donate to jazz museum

April 04, 1996|By Mark Morris | Mark Morris,KANSAS CITY STAR

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You can call Masuhiko Tsuji many things -- businessman, computer wizard, jazz fanatic.

But never, ever, call him a sore loser.

Two years ago, Tsuji-Bird, as he's known to his friends, bid against Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver for the Charlie Parker saxophone at auction in London.

Kansas City spent $140,000 and won. Mr. Tsuji smoothed his feathers with the purchase of about $9,000 in other Parker memorabilia at the auction. A third bidder also walked away disappointed.

But Mr. Tsuji and five friends from Tokyo -- who constitute the entire membership of the Charlie Parker Society of Japan -- have decided not to leave it at that.

They contacted Mr. Cleaver and announced they want to donate everything else the society bought at the auction to the planned jazz museum at 18th and Vine streets.

In a recent interview, conducted by e-mail as Mr. Tsuji traveled on business in Europe, he acknowledged that giving up the group's only Bird "icons" isn't easy. But it's in the best interests of jazz lovers, he said.

"If I keep this memorabilia in my house, it would mean nothing for Bird lovers worldwide," he said.

"If Kansas City has a Charlie Parker museum, and people who have memorabilia donate to it, Bird's life and music will continue to be a great cultural inheritance for all mankind."

Mr. Cleaver said the donation has given him second thoughts about the auction.

"Had I known they were so generous, I would have let them win, because they probably would have donated [the sax] to us," he said.

Well, not quite.

Mr. Tsuji said that if his society had won the bidding, its members would have offered to sell the sax to a jazz museum for the amount they paid for it.

All the material being offered will be on display at the Kansas City museum's opening scheduled for May 1997, which Mr. Tsuji plans to attend.

Among the new items:

Copies of concert contracts signed by Parker, including the agreement for the seminal 1953 Massey Hall concert in Toronto, at which he used the cream-colored alto sax that now resides in Kansas City.

The original "Jazz at Massey Hall" LPs that Bird gave to his wife, Chan.

A poster for a Parker concert at the Open Door club in New York.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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