Sometime around 1953, a young Charles McPherson heard Charlie Parker’s “Tico Tico” on a Detroit jukebox and his life was forever changed. “I was completely floored,” he says, “and from that point on, it was like, ‘that’s it.’”
Before the end of the decade, Charles was playing alto sax with Parker’s contemporaries and forging a career that’s continued for over six decades. During that span, he’s collaborated with the likes of Barry Harris, Art Farmer, Pepper Adams, Kenny Drew, George Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Lionel Hampton, and Charles Mingus, in whose band McPherson played for twelve years.
“His ardent, chirruping attack became a defining component of the ensemble,” says Giovanni Russonello in the New York Times. The list of famous collaborators goes on: Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Billy Eckstine, Tommy Flanagan, Tom Harrell, Billy Higgins, Sam Jones, Cedar Walton…and on: Adderley, Brecker, Marsalis, Byard….
As a leader, McPherson has released over 25 albums and fronted dozens of bands, often exploring new approaches and configurations, but always rooted in the sound that enchanted him as a kid. A master of the bebop idiom, McPherson even played the saxophone voice of Charlie Parker for Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic, Bird.
For lovers of bebop, then, you won’t get any closer to the real thing than seeing this legend in person. As The New Yorker put it recently: “to witness an authentic master of the art, like the altoist McPherson, can still elicit a genuine spinal chill.”
As a composer, McPherson has worked most recently in collaboration with San Diego Ballet, who in 2015 premiered his Sweet Synergy Suite, a large-scale piece for jazz ensemble with choreography by Javier Velasco.
This May, the Ballet will premiere his newest work, Song of Songs. McPherson has also received a slew of awards for his historic contributions to jazz, including an honorary CSU doctorate in 2015. This April, Jazz at Lincoln Center will help him celebrate his 80th birthday, together with McCoy Tyner’s, by premiering new arrangements of some of the two men’s most iconic compositions.
Backing up McPherson for this RJA appearance, which is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, via the Western Jazz Presenters Network, is a trio of top-notch accompanists. Pianist, composer, and arranger Jeb Patton is a regular with acts like the Heath Brothers, The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, George Coleman, and Jon Faddis, as well as his own trio.
L. A. bassist Jeff Littleton has worked with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Nancy Wilson, Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Higgins, and Charles Lloyd. Billy Drummond, who got his start playing drums for greats including Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Bobby Hutcherson, has lent his versatile style to hundreds of records and released a handful of acclaim-winning albums as a leader.
Show Thursday, February 28, 2019, 8 p.m., Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU. Advance tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) to the concert by the Charles McPherson Quartet are available online at RedwoodJazzAlliance.org and locally at Wildberries, Wildwood Music, People’s Records, and The Works.
With support from HSU’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the trio will also present an informal pre-concert workshop, free and open to the public, on the afternoon of February 28th in the HSU Music Department (exact time location TBA). For additional details and up-to-date information, please visit www.RedwoodJazzAlliance.org.
The Redwood Jazz Alliance is a 401(c)(3) non-profit charity dedicated to jazz performance and education by touring artists of national and international renown. Since 2006, with the aid of local businesses, professionals, and individual members, and in partnership with HSU’s Department of Music and College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, as well as the Humboldt Arts Council, the Humboldt Folklife Society, the Arcata Playhouse, and Center Arts, it has presented dozens of concerts and educational workshops.
Its 2018-19 season will conclude in April with the return of bassist Shao-Way Wu, in a new trio with Randy and Gabe Porter.