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See Charles McPherson Honor Sax Legend Charlie Parker

McPherson returns from the west coast for nine sets at the Jazz Showcase’s 60th annual salute to the Bird this weekend.

Charles McPherson
Charles McPherson   Photo: Laurent Kramer / Courtesy Charles McPherson

When bebop pioneer Charlie Parker died in 1955, Jazz Showcase owner Joe Segal hosted a commemorative improv session that would eventually become the country’s longest-running Charlie Parker tribute.

60 years later, the aptly-named “August is Charlie Parker Month” features four weeks of concerts by Parker’s widespread disciples. It’s not only as a testament to the Yardbird’s legacy, but to bebop’s staying power—Parker’s contemporary Dexter Gordon called it “the music of the future,” a quote Segal likes to use to kick Parker Month each year.

Of all the players tooting their respects to Parker this month, altoist Charles McPherson is probably the most familiar. The Detroit-raised, San Diego-based sax player, who came up touring with Charles Mingus in the ’60s, has become something of a Parker Month staple. It’s easy to see why: McPherson’s thick voicing and lightning-fast fingering draw so heavily on Parker’s style that he was picked to play the saxophone parts for Clint Eastwood’s 1988 Parker biopic Bird.

McPherson appears with a quartet this year, including locals Willie Pickens on piano and Larry Gray on bass, and the four of them could bop-up anything from Monk’s most jarring cuts to Porter’s most lulling (McPherson’s done both in the past).

Luckily, the quartet is playing nine sets over the next four days—if you don’t like what you get the first time around, give the late show a go.

Charles McPherson Quartet plays Jazz Showcase Thursday, August 7 through Saturday, August 9 at 8 and 10 p.m. and Sunday, August 10 at 4, 8, and 10 p.m. 806 S. Plymouth Court. Tickets: $20-35 or $20 cash at the door.


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