PREVIEW: Charles McPherson in London (Pizza Express Dean Street 17/18 Feb)

Charles McPherson. Photo credit Melody McLaren


Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson will be making a return visit to London on Feb 17th and 18th. Four shows over two nights (BOOKINGS)


The story of McPherson's distinguished career deserves re-telling: He was born in 1939 in Missouri, and moved as a small child to Detroit. He lived close to the famous Bluebird club, where his first significant mentor was pianist Barry Harris, and the house band included players such as brothers Elvin and Thad Jones. Tommy Flanagan and Kirk Lightsey were also regulars. The association with Barry Harris continued. The pianist was on several of McPherson's albums, right up to the 1990s:





Not long after moving to New York as a 20-year old, he became a member of Charles Mingus' band, and stayed in it for a total of 12 years. In addition to the Mingus albums, he also played in the bands of Lionel Hampton and Jay McShann, and was a member of Charles Tolliver's Strata East Big Band in the 1970's.

McPherson's most prominent/visible role in the period since moving to southern California in 1978 was playing on the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker film Bird. The film does use recordings of Parker himself extensively, but there were several occasions where Eastwood wanted music for which it was impossible to use the original Bird recordings, where McPherson takes over seamlessly ...This also led to the Clint Eastwood After Hours live sessions at Carnegie Hall in 1996, where he played this blistering Cherokee:



He was recently awarded an honorary doctorate at California State University San Marcos and received the Don Redman Heritage Award . He also composes and works extensively with San Diego Ballet. McPherson's Afro-Cuban ballet Sweet Synergy was premiered in 2014. McPherson was last in Europe in July 2016 for appearances at Ronnie Scott's and at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Last year he also was in residency at Dizzy's in New York.

The most recent album is The Journey WONDERFULLY REVIEWED HERE BY THE LATE ANDY BOECKSTAENS) This year he is appearing in top US venues: the Jazz Standard in New York, where he will be re-united with NEA Jazz Master George Coleman Sr., and at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

Feature produced with help from Matthew Sulzmann

The London dates gives audiences here a chance to hear a major figure in the jazz heritage. The trio with him are Spanish pianist Albert Palau Garcerá , Paris-based American bassist Daryll Hall and Stephen Keogh (drums).

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