Since the passing of conductor, musician and arranger Butch Morris in January, there has been a void in the creative domain of free music. Singers, wordsmiths and musicians find joy in his music as they listen to his genius concept of conduction.
The August tribute to the memory of Morris and his music, which inspired souls every Sunday at the Nublu Restaurant (62 Avenue C, one of his regular performance spaces) will wrap up on Aug. 25 with TriBeCaStan (9 p.m.). The global music ensemble fuses West African rhythms with Appalachian mountain tunes twisted with an East Village avant-garde attitude that mocks the words “genre” and “category.”
Christof Knoche’s Deep End (bass clarinet, bass, guitar and drums) will perform at 10:30 p.m., followed by Knoche (in various band configurations) and DJ Vladimir Radojicic. Find yourself in the deepness of it all or get lost in the land of bent genres and free music. For more information, visit www.nublu.net.
Charlie “Bird” Parker was so proficient on alto saxophone that a few musicians during his era changed to tenor saxophone or another instrument. He took the art of jazz to such a hipper galactic level that the Manhattan jazz club Birdland was named in his honor.
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, a three-day free music affair, runs Aug. 23-24 at Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris Park West at West 122nd Street). The Jimmy Heath Big Band will debut the world premiere of “Bird is the Word,” a new suite by tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who, as a young musician, was called “Little Bird” before he switched to tenor sax. The show takes place at 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
On Aug. 24 (3 p.m.-7 p.m.), the swinging continues at Garvey Park in the vicinity of Minton’s Playhouse, where Parker and his cohorts developed a rapid rhythmic flow that became known as “bebop.”
The lineup features hard bopper alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett; vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, a fresh new voice to the sauce; drummer Kim Thompson—she shouldn’t be missed; and Jaleel Shaw, a young alto saxophonist whose earned quite a reputation playing with Roy Haynes as he continues to forge ahead on his own path.
On Aug. 25 (3 p.m.-7 p.m.), the festival swings downtown to Tompkins Square Park in the East Village (East Seventh Street between Avenues A and B). The roster will include the Lee Konitz Quartet and vocalist Sheila Jordan, who was influenced by Parker early on and was a 2012 NEA Jazz Master. Christian Scott (“Christian aTunde Adjuah”) and the Aaron Diehl Quartet will round out the evening. These two young musicians are always worth seeing. Diehl’s piano phrasing and technique is visible whether he is playing Negro spirituals, stride or straight ahead.
The educational arm of the Charlie Parker Festival will include a screening of “Beacons of Jazz” on Aug. 21 at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music Jazz Performance Space (55 W. 13th St., fifth floor), 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
The screening is of footage from the 1993 Beacons in Jazz Awards presented by the New School. It was hosted by Bill Cosby and featured live performances by Donald Byrd and Milt Hinton, and the award recipient was Cab Calloway.
On Aug. 22, the second screening at the New School is “The Girls in the Band,” 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. The documentary tells stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating journeys from the late 1930s to the present day.
Following the screening, director Judy Chaikin, drummer Kim Thompson and moderator Dr. Lara Pellegrinelli will join in a discussion on woman’s historic roles both in front and behind the scenes in the jazz world.
On Aug. 23, the New School features a Family Jazz Concert featuring drummer and composer Matt Wilson, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. This free, interactive concert is specifically for families with children ages 8 months to 5 years.
Just when old-school jazzheads thought albums were dead after being swallowed up by the greedy download monster, up jumps Bethlehem Records’ 1950s jazz catalog, to be reissued by Verse Music Group and Naxos of America.
Bethlehem Records’ discography contains over 250 albums that introduced West Coast cool jazz and East Coast bop. Their roster of artists include Nina Simone, Carmen McRae, Chris Connor, Mel Torme, Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Duke Ellington. Some of these recordings are classic debuts of these artists.
The colorful artwork by Burt Goldblatt that gave each album its personality has been restored, and now you can actually read the liner notes. Each track has been restored from the original analog sound recording and digitally re-mastered.
After many years, these recordings will be available in their original configuration in LP vinyl, CD and digital formats as part of a 12-month relaunch. Bethlehem Records was formerly owned by the Cayre brothers under their umbrella label Salsoul Records, the then-popular disco label.
Titles slated for an Aug. 27 release include Oscar Pettiford’s “Modern Quintet,” Chris Connor’s “Chris Connor Sings Lullabys for Lovers,” Dexter Gordon’s “Daddy Plays the Horn,” Charles Mingus’ “The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus,” Nina Simone’s “Little Girl Blue” and Booker Ervin’s “The Book Cooks.”
Twenty select titles will be exclusively available in the Bethlehem Records iTunes store or at bethlehemrecords.com.