After a year of stage silence and birds chirping as opposed to live horns igniting outdoor audiences, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival returns live to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, Richard Rodgers Amphitheater. This year’s festival, which takes place Aug. 27-29, will be a celebration in honor of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s 100th birthday, “Bird at 100.” The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow for this big party to take place last year.
Unlike in past years, Tompkins Square Park will not be hosting the Sunday portion of the festival. Marcus Garvey Park is an easier site to support SummerStage’s 2021 social-distancing guidelines and ticketing process.
The party jumps off Aug. 27 in a big way with alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and his invited fellow altoists Gary Bartz and Bobby Watson to deliver “Bird at 100” (Smoke Sessions) in honor of Parker’s legacy. The ensemble will be rounded out with pianist David Kikoski, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Carl Allen. And to add another bright candle to the celebration will be special guest alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, who will be joined by pianist Miki Yamanaka, bassist Alex Ayala and drummer Vince Ector (7 p.m.-10 p.m.).
On Aug. 28 two of Parker’s best-selling albums including “Charlie Parker with Strings” (Mercury Records, 1950) will be celebrated. The albums which included all standards (such as Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Klenner & Lewis’ “Just Friends”) will be performed by the Donald Harrison Quartet and the Harlem Symphony Orchestra with music director, founder and violinist Amadi Azikiwe. Alto saxophonist, composer and 2022 NEA Jazz Master Harrison joined forces with Azikiwe (and 11 members of the HSO) to perform some of Parker’s most beautiful recorded music. Harrison will also debut two new works in his created signature styles “nouveau swing” and “quantum jazz” which are both heavily influenced by Parker. He will be joined by his abled young quartet featuring pianist Dan Kaufman, bassist Nori Naraoka and drummer Joe Dyson. Harrison says they are ready to play some bebop (6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.). The show will kick off with a festival-debut performance by Shenel Johns, a dynamic jazz songstress who has performed at venues such as Museum of Modern Art and Dizzy’s Club.
Finally, on Sunday, Aug. 29, for the Charlie Parker Centennial, Willie Jones III and Jazz at Lincoln Center have assembled a multi-generational, international band of men and women to represent the global impact that Parker had—and continues to have—on music and the musicians that make it. Jones serves as music director, anchoring the rhythm section on drums. The rest of the ensemble will include pianist Donald Vega; bassist and Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Endea Owens; the alto saxophonists Justin Robinson (a veteran of Roy Hargrove’s bands), Sapporo, Japan’s Erena Terakubo, a bandleader in her own right with six albums under her belt, and Harlem’s Godwin Louis, who founded the “Experience Ayiti” (foundation for multi-disciplinary arts education), and Juilliard master’s student Sarah Hanahan.
Admission is free; to find out more regarding tickets visit the website: https://cityparksfoundation.org/charlieparker.
In response to the increasing spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, all guests of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival SummerStage events at Marcus Garvey Park on August 27, 28 and 29 will be required to show either proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours in order to enter.
The composer, big band arranger and trumpeter Charles Tolliver hasn’t looked back since his grandmother purchased his first horn as a youngster. He came to prominence in 1964 while playing and recording with Jackie McLean during his Blue Note years. In 1971, Tolliver and pianist and composer Stanley Cowell founded Strata-East Records that became the home and springboard for many jazz musicians. Artist-owned record labels at that time were still a rather progressive concept.
In celebration of Strata-East Records’ 50th anniversary, Tolliver and the Strata-East All Stars will perform to a live audience at Birdland (315 West 44th Street) Aug. 31-Sept. 4 with two shows nightly at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The second set (9:30 p.m.) on Sept. 4 will be live-streamed worldwide with a guest appearance by bassist Cecil McBee and narrated by film star and activist Danny Glover. The esteemed All-Stars led by Tolliver will feature saxophonist Billy Harper, pianist George Cables, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White.
Since Tolliver and the late Cowell introduced the label, it has provided a platform for such artists as Clifford Jordan, Cecil McBee, Billy Harper, John Hicks and Jimmy Heath/The Heath Brothers. In signing poet Gil Scott-Heron, it proved the label to be progressive and ahead of its time. His “Winter in America” (1974) album remains relevant to these times and was a revolutionary prerequisite to the world of hip hop.
“It is good that some of us are here to celebrate this kind of event,” said Tolliver. “We have lost a number of people in the past year including Wallace Roney and Mike Longo.”
For tickets to live performances visit the website www.birdlandjazz.com.
To purchase tickets for the Live Stream that will be available for 72 hours worldwide following the show, visit the website https://dreamstage.live/event/strata-east.
In response to the increasing spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, all Birdland guests will be required to show either proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours in order to enter.