Charles McPherson, one of the great alto saxophonists of the 20th century who continues to exhibit his brilliant nuances on how the instrument should be played, from amazing riffs to his melodic phrasing,s will celebrate his 84th birthday at Dizzy’s on July 20-23 with his well-abled Quintet featuring trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Jeb Patton, bassist David Wong, and drummer Billy Drummond. Two sets each night at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (Sunday 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.).

McPherson and McCoy Tyner in 2019 were both honored by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with Wynton Marsalis offering new arrangements of their many compositions. McPherson, while acknowledged as an outstanding musician whose magical improvisations dance in bebop distinction to straight-head, has yet to receive his just desserts, but you can see him yourself and be Dazzled!

A native of Joplin, Missouri, McPherson grew up in Detroit and studied under the bebop ballad navigator Barry Harris and began playing professionally at age 19. As a versatile musician and prolific composer, he is now Resident for the San Diego Ballet, where he has written three original suites for chamber music and jazz combos. McPherson had the honor of being the subject of the Ph.D. candidate Dr. Donnie Norton’s Doctoral Dissertation: “The Jazz Saxophone Style of Charles McPherson: An Analysis through Biographical Examination and Solo Transcription.”

Check him at Dizzy’s to see why he warrants a dissertation and rave reviews. With standing ovations around the world, shouldn’t the committee of NEA Jazz Masters be calling? For more information and tickets, visit jazz.org.

Jazz enthusiasts know trumpeter and composer Ahmed Abdullah as a musical instigator, who crashes the demarcation lines of avant-garde and traditional jazz. 

On July 23, Abdullah will celebrate his debut memoir “A Strange Celestial Road: My Time,” with the Sun Ra Arkestra (Blank Forms 2023), with a book signing at Sista’s Place (456 Nostrand Avenue).

During our recent conversation, Abdullah explained to me he actually started writing this book in 1997 and finished shortly afterward. “I had just left the Sun Ra Arkestra, and I wanted to share my valuable experience of working with him and his understanding of who we are as Black people,” stated Abdullah. 

The trumpeter toured extensively with Sun Ra and appeared on more than 25 of his recordings. He joined the Arkestra in 1975 and worked with them intermittently until 1993, when Sun Ra transitioned.

“Sun Ra often told us [band members] he was doing music for the 21st century.” And now, in this 21st century, the Sun Ra Arkestra remains fueled under the direction of its original member, alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, at the age of 99. Sun Ra sparked the beginning of the Afrofuturism movement from wardrobe to the space age philosophy and the study of Egyptology.

In 2019, Abdullah and his band Diaspora collaborated with former Sun Ra comrade Francisco Mora Catlett's ensemble AfroHORN to form Diaspora Meets AfroHORN. They created the first recording for Melchizedek Music Productions: ”Jazz: A Music of the, Spirit / Out of Sistas' Place.

Sista’s Place is Abdullah’s music shrine where every weekend, he is the club’s celebrated host. He also serves as music director responsible for bringing some of the most renowned jazz musicians to the Brooklyn jazz oasis. Call (718) 398-1766 for more information or visit sistasplace.org. 

Just last week Monday, the trumpeter, bandleader and composer Joe Wilder was posthumously honored with a Congressional Gold Medal in Harlem at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His widow and daughter were presented with the medal, one of the highest civilian honors. Wilder was recognized for his service and personal sacrifice during World War II.

Wilder enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Jacksonville, North Carolina (a racially segregated base), for training with the first 1,000 Black men to become Marines, known as the historic Montford Point Marines. The base was a brutally hot, snake-infested, substandard facility. He was originally trained as a sharpshooter, but his musical talents led him to star trumpet soloist and then Marine Corps assistant bandmaster, the first Black man to hold that position. His daughter noted her father often said, “the Marine Corps gave him a sense of duty and discipline.”

Following the war, Wilder was a member of such illustrious orchestras led by Jimmie Lunceford, Lucky Millinder, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Count Basie Orchestra. He was one of the first black musicians (1957 to 1974) to do studio work for WABC-TV, (New York City), and sat in prestigious pit orchestras for Broadway musicals. His boundless musical concepts made him a first call musician for NEA Jazz MastersHank Jones, Gil Evans, and Benny Goodman. His understated tone made him a favorite with vocalists like Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Harry Belafonte, Eileen Farrell, and Tony Bennett. Wilder was honored with the NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2008.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *