The unique vocals of Bobby McFerrin are to be enjoyed, not wasted on trying to place him in a category.
Two years after his debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the native Manhattanite returns to open its 25th anniversary season, performing for the first time with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on Sept. 13-15 at 8 p.m. in the Rose Theater (60th Street and Broadway).
“Bobby McFerrin: My Audio Biography” will explore his colorful, eclectic influences, from symphonies and spirituals to soundtracks, jazz and beyond. There will be new and lively arrangements by the JLCO members.
As a vocalist, McFerrin switches between modal and falsetto registers to create polyphonic effects, performing both the main melody and the accompanying parts of songs. He makes use of percussive effects created both with his mouth and by tapping on his chest. A notable document of McFerrin’s approach to singing is his 1984 album, “The Voice,” the first solo vocal jazz album recorded with no accompaniment or overdubbing.
In 1994, McFerrin was appointed creative chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He makes regular tours as a guest conductor for symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Canada, including the San Francisco Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic.
McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was a No. 1 Billboard pop hit in 1988. The song was used as part of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 U.S. presidential election efforts without McFerrin’s permission. In response, McFerrin publicly protested that particular use of his song and stated that he was going to vote against Bush.
He has collaborated with jazz and classical trailblazers such as pianists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul, drummer Tony Williams and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Oliver Lake has always forged his own path, although his main forte lies in the jazz arena as a composer, saxophonist, flautist and co-founder of the acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet with Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett and David Murray. He also works with his own ensemble, Jump Up, as well as Trio 3 and he has his own record label.
Lake will celebrate his 70th birthday at Jazz Standard (116 E. 27th St.) on Sept. 13-16 with sets at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and a third set on Friday and Saturday. Lake will play in various configurations, making for some exciting and invigorating evenings. On Sept. 13, Lake leads an Organ Quartet with organist Jared Gold, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and drummer Chris Beck. On Sept. 14, Lake steps out with his 17-piece Big Band and the last two days will be Trio 3, with the outstanding musicianship of pianist Geri Allen, bassist Reggie Workman, drummer Andrew Cyrille and Lake on alto sax. Trio 3 is one of the most inventive groups on the scene today, but with such great personnel, we are only stating the obvious.
Lake is an accomplished poet, painter and performance artist. He published a book of poetry, “Life Dance,” has exhibited and sold a number of his unique painted-sticks at the Montclair Art Museum and has toured the country with his one-man performance piece, “Matador of 1st and 1st.”
At any given point, Lake may be involved in a hurricane of activity, from composing major commissioned works for the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic to creating chamber pieces for the Arditti and Flux String Quartets and the San Francisco Contemporary Players. He has arranged for pop star Bjork and rocker Lou Reed, collaborated with poets Amiri Baraka and Ntozake Shange and has done unique performances with MacArthur Fellowship recipients Anna Deavere Smith, actress and author, and Patricia Williams, writer, law professor and political commentator.
Is Lake really just a jazz musician or a very talented artist with an arsenal of artistic outlets? At any rate, this is going to be a memorable happy birthday bash just as eclectic as the artist.
Roy Haynes, what can we say about a living legend who came to Harlem in 1945 on a one-way ticket from Roxbury, Mass., that was sent to him by Luis Russell, who wanted him in his big band playing the Savoy Ballroom?
Haynes and his Fountain of Youth Band–alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, pianist Martin Bejerano and bassist David Wong–were burning last week at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. It was jam-packed every night. During a recent interview, Haynes stated, “I love playing in New York.” He proved it by turning the ice in Dizzy’s Coca-Cola into steam.
The group was an intuitive jazz machine and everything was flowing with the “Royal of Haynes,” a Lester Young nickname, leading the way. They turned Wayne Shorter’s tune “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” into an extended hard bop blaze of smoke and a swinging version of Monk’s “Trinkle, Tinkle.”
His young, talented musicians aren’t kids anymore–they are seasoned veterans who become explosive on swinging up-tempo tunes and take your breath away on ballads with a distinctive tone and rhythmic flow.
Haynes soloed by playing the rims of his drum set, never mind the skins or cymbals. It was swinging–a lesson in drums 401. It was similar to those amazing concerts when Max Roach would just play the high hat for a few minutes. “I’ve just been trying to play these drums for a living and hope people like what I’m doing,” he stated.
When Haynes plays, he paints a complete and exciting portrait of jazz in America.