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Charlie Parker Fest

Ron Scott | 8/17/2012, 10:17 a.m.

Charlie Parker was a living legend. After him, there was no other. The way he played that alto sax, he mesmerized listeners, along with his distinctive tone, those inventive riffs and an improvisational wit that never quit.

They called him "Bird." His sound was so intense they named the jazz club Birdland after him, originally located at 52nd Street and Broadway. It became his throne, his roost where jazzheads would flock to see the incredible "Bird" in flight and, at the end of the journey, all they could say was, "Wow, what a night."

His legacy continues with the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, there will be a variety of events, including workshops and panels beginning on Aug. 17, leading up to the weekend festival.

The two-day festival begins on Aug. 25 in Harlem (Marcus Garvey Park, 124th Street at 5th Avenue) where Bird often played and became one of Minton's architects for a new sound called bebop.

The lineup will include Roy Haynes, the drummer with that snap, crackle and pop. Lester Young called him "The Royal of Haynes," and when Max Roach left Charlie Parker, he said, "Hire Haynes." Also featured will be vocalist Rene Marie's Experiment in Truth, Derrick Hodge and ERIMAJ.

On Sunday, Aug. 26, "Bird's flight" continues downtown to the Lower East Side at Tompkins Square Park. Guests will include the Ernestine Anderson Quartet. Anderson is a jazz vocalist who illuminates the stage. Whether in Gotham or Europe, she is an exceptional, renowned musician who always shines. Vocalist Gregory Porter, Andy Milne & Dapp Theory and Sullivan Fortner will also be in attendance. Both concerts run from 3-7 p.m.

Between sets, poets Jon Sands, Sheila Maldonado and Nikhil Melnechuk will share their poetic perceptions on Parker and his music.

An additional event taking place at Marcus Garvey Park on Aug. 24 will be "Bird With Strings," featuring Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and special guests.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, check out Bill's Place for "Charlie Parker on Swing Street: Musical Storytelling" 6-8 p.m. This is the first time Bill's Place will be a part of the official Parker celebration. Saxophonist-composer Bill Saxton, the owner of the swinging brownstone that was a part of the original "Swing Street" from the early speakeasy days, noted, "It's a pleasure to be a part of the Charlie Parker celebration. His birthday should be a national holiday." Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis. Bill's Place is located at 148 W. 133rd St.

On the same day, visit the Harlem School of the Arts for "Charlie Parker in 2012: Bird (Still) in Flight" 6:30-8 p.m. An all-star panel moderated by Ashley Kahn will include Jimmy Heath, Steve Coleman, Jaleel Shaw and Antonio Ciacca. Together they will discuss Parker's enduring legacy.

On Aug. 22, the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music will host a panel discussion with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and journalist-

author Ashley Kahn 6:30-8 p.m.

The multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and educator Atwood-Ferguson, who was commissioned for this year's festival, will present his newly composed versions of the music from the epochal 1949 and 1950 "Charlie Parker With String" sessions.

On Aug. 23, also at the New School, actor, writer and storyteller Daniel Carlton presents "When Small's Had It All," a multimedia theatrical presentation that honors and recreates the experience of the iconic Small's Paradise of Harlem as a metaphor for the neighborhood's history under the musical direction of Claudia Hayden. Reservations are required. RSVP by emailing charlieparker20@summerstage.org.

For a complete festival schedule, visit summerstage.org.