Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker, Bird, that Charlie Parker cat, Yardbird, the legend, the icon, iconoclast, innovator, the God. They call his name in bars, on street corners, in barbershops, in jazz clubs, it’s unhip, uncool, even crazy to have the audacity to ask “Who is Bird?” They’ve made movies about him, they call it Birdland in Manhattan, there’ songs, Alvin Ailey choreographed a dance piece in his honor, books written, James Baldwin wrote a short story on him, they play his music from NYC to Japan and back again. Who that? Bird that Charlie Parker Cat dam he be BAD. Jean-Michel Basquiat created paintings in his honor. jazz historian Phil Schaap hosted “Bird Flight” on WKCR radio, New York dedicated entirely to Parker’s music, still running today. Like Bird lives like Charlie Parker lives in the 10-foot-tall bronze head memorial sculptured by Robert Graham (dedicated in 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri). Parker discovered a new musical vocabulary and sound that altered the course of music history, he practiced dam near 15 hours per day, his unique chords are called “Bird Changes.”
Praises for the master alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader will continue from August 25-28, as his name is shouted out during New York City’s 30th annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. The festival––now a four-day event––takes off on August 25, as the Jazz Foundation of America celebrates with a concert at the Hansborough Recreation Center (35 West 134th Street) featuring the hard hittin Elvin Jones fiery tradition drummer Winard Harper and Jeli Posse (6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.), followed by a film screening (8 p.m.- 9:40 p.m.) of “Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony,” a 2002 documentary film depicting the struggles of Black South Africans against the injustices of Apartheid through the use of music.
The festival opens at Marcus Garvey Park on August 26 with vocalist Jazzmeia Horn’s return to SummerStage set to perform works from her first album with Her Noble Force, a 15-piece ensemble that offers new challenges for her daring arrangements. Calvin Booker On Tap & Friends will also perform. This event is co-presented by Jazzmobile. (7 p.m.-9 p.m.).
On August 26, there’s Jazz in the Garden: Parlor Entertainment featuring the vocalist, pianist, actress, playwright Marjorie Eliot and pianist/vocalist Rudel Drears. They will perform at the Harlem Rose Garden (6 East 129th Street), 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Since 1992 these two uptown legends have presented a weekly Sunday jazz series at her Edgecombe apartment.
On August 27, The Parker Festival hits full gear at Marcus Garvey Park (18 Mt. Morris Park West at 124th Street), 3 p.m.-7 p.m. The all-star line-up will feature the trumpeter, Academy Award-nominated film composer and an exciting new voice in the opera world Terence Blanchard. For his latest album “Absence,” his electro-acoustic quintet E-Collective joins forces with violinist David Balakrishnan’s Turtle Island Quartet. Their performance will feature works from the Wayne Shorter tribute album. They will be joined by the legendary bassist Buster Williams, who is the subject of the JazzTimes Documentary Film of the Year, “Bass to Infinity.” Williams will play with his all-star quartet Something More, NIKARA presents Black Wall Street, an ensemble which melds hip hop, jazz, and Afro Caribbean rhythms into an abstract sound-collage. Vuyo Sotashe, a South African jazz vocalist, is making his mark on the New York jazz scene.
The opening act at 2 p.m.-2:50 p.m. will be Acoustic Set with Courtney Wright Trio2 presented by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Wright is a promising young composer and baritone saxophonist. She leads her own jazz orchestra and quintet that perform her original compositions and arrangements.
On August 28, The CPJF returns to Tompkins Square Park (144 Avenue A on 7th Street) for the 1st time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Performers will include; tenor saxophonist, composer, educator and NEA Jazz Master Archie Shepp, an elder-state-jazzman, an avant garde pioneer, one of the first in that genre to infuse the roots of Africa’s cultural music. Residing in France for some time, this will be a rare U.S. appearance for him. He will be joined by pianist, multi-media artist Jason Moran. The 85-year-old saxophonist performed a duo with Moran on the single “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” on their 2021 album “Let My People Go” on the saxophonist’s Archie Ball label. The duo will feature composer, singer, and visual artist Cécile McLorin Salvant.
The bill also includes the Grammy-nominated Chilean tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, who plays with a ferocious energy; Bria Skonberg, a Canadian jazz trumpeter and bandleader; and Pasquale Grasso, a master be-bop guitarist.
From 1950 to 1954, Parker lived with his partner Chan Berg on the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park.
All concerts are FREE. For a complete listing visit the website Charlie Parker Jazz Festival – City Parks Foundation
The alto saxophonist, flutist, and multi-reed player Patience Higgins is an international genre-breaking musician, who has played with royalty like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Archie Shepp, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paquito D’Rivera, Yoko Ono, Don Byron, The Pointer Sisters, has had a five-year stint with saloon singer/entertainer singer Bobby Short at the upper echelon Café Carlyle and a five-year stint with soul man Wilson Pickett. He’s toured with the Count Basie and Duke Ellington Orchestras. With such an astounding resume, he has been eluded by the great jazz machine, no cover stories by major jazz publications, no major jazz club dates in the Big Apple.
Despite the jazz establishment’s oversight, Higgins works at least five days per week, every week in Harlem. The legendary culturally-oriented community still follows the tradition of hiring jazz bands in restaurants and bars as it did during the days of the Lenox Lounge, Showman’s Café, Paris Blues and La Famila. Higgins was the leader of the Sugar Hill Quartet, the house band for Lenox Lounge, and for the regular Monday night sessions at St. Nick’s Pub in Harlem. “If I’m not performing at least five days per week, it’s a bad week,” said Higgins during a phone interview.
Higgins performs weekly in Harlem; on Sunday’s with the Brandon Sanders Quartet at the Row House Restaurant (2128 Frederick Douglass Blvd.), Sunday Brunch 12 noon-4 p.m.; and later Sunday evening he plays at Swing 46 (349 West 46th Street) with the George Gee Band, 4 p.m.-12 midnight; on Tuesday’s he is with Steve Oquendo Latin Jazz Orquestra, in the Bronx at Mamajuana Café (3233 East Tremont Ave.; Thursdays he’s back in Harlem at Patrick’s Place (151st Street and 8th Avenue), playing with drummer Phil Young Experience (7 p.m.-11 p.m.); Friday’s at the same location, he leads his own band Patience Higgins Quartet featuring pianist Paul O’Deh, bassist Nathan Garrett and drummer Will Ferrell. And Saturday’s he gigs at Brownstone Jazz (107 Macon Street, Brooklyn) the long running parlor jazz series curated by its owner Debbie McCain (7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.).
“I love all kinds of music, so I never limited myself to one style or genre of music,” said Higgins. “I continue to play with a variety of different bands when I am not leading my own band or on the road.” Being an adept multi-instrumentalist playing all the saxophones, clarinet, oboe, and English horn is his advantage. His musicianship more than likely played a role in him becoming a pit musician for Broadway shows like; “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Hair,” The Tony award-winning “Sophisticated Ladies” and the award-winning “Chicago.” Reading music exceptionally well is a must when playing the pit, no room for improvising or mistakes. “It was reed player John Purcell, who recommended me to play with the great avant garde pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams, that was a real learning experience,” said Higgins. “When I came to New York in the 1980s, reedman Seldon Powell took me under his wing, and introduced me to Broadway, I subbed for him on ‘Ain’t Misbehavin.’”
When the native of Greenville, S. C. isn’t touring, he’s an instructor at the Jazz Workshop and Saturday mornings at Jazzmobile. His advice to students, “be well-rounded, be curious about all kinds of music. Don’t limit yourself to one thing.”