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Charles McPherson

For more than 60 years, saxophonist Charles McPherson has been one of the most expressive and highly regarded voices in jazz. His rich musical style, rooted in the blues and bebop, has influenced and inspired generations of musicians and listeners.

McPherson was born in Joplin, MO, on July 24, 1939, and he developed a love for music at a young age. As a child, he began experimenting at the piano whenever one was available. He also attended summer concerts in Joplin that featured territory bands from the Midwest and Southwest. These concerts made a strong impression on McPherson, who was particularly enamored with the sound and shape of the saxophone.

McPherson moved to Detroit in 1948 at age 9. At that time, Detroit was home to one of the most vibrant jazz communities in the country. His new home was in the same neighborhood as his future mentor, pianist Barry Harris, as well as his friend and future bandmate, trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer. Additionally, McPherson now lived within blocks of the famed Blue Bird Inn jazz club.

“The street that I lived on just happened to be a street where Barry Harris lived right around the corner, five minutes away. A trumpet player named Lonnie Hillyer, who worked with Mingus along with myself for a long time, lived right on my street. And there was a jazz club a few blocks down on my street called the Blue Bird, which was, at that time, probably the hippest jazz club in Detroit. So it was interesting that, of all places, as big as Detroit is, I ended up on the same street as a really great local jazz club. The house band at that time was Barry Harris on piano, Pepper Adams playing baritone sax, Paul Chambers or Beans Richardson (on bass), and Elvin Jones was the house drummer.”

NYC Aug1962 After beginning on flugelhorn and trumpet in his school band at age 12, McPherson switched to alto saxophone at 13. Much of his knowledge of jazz at that point was from an awareness of popular big bands of the Swing Era. He was also familiar with great soloists from that time, such as alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Based on the recommendation of a classmate, McPherson first heard the music of Charlie Parker in his early teens. Despite not having a strong theoretical knowledge of this new music, he knew immediately that bebop was the style he wanted to play.

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Live Review

Charles McPherson Quintet at Jazz Alley

Read "Charles McPherson Quintet at Jazz Alley" reviewed by Paul Rauch

Charles McPherson Quintet Jazz Alley Seattle, WA June 13, 2023 To be fortunate enough to see an artist of the caliber of alto saxophonist/master composer Charles McPherson perform live is a blessing, to be sure. Jazz fans of any age can be recipients of this privilege, though fans who have accumulated several decades of age can, perhaps, appreciate the opportunity the most. To be a McPherson fan over the past 50 years is to ...

Radio & Podcasts

Jazz Improvisation, Part 1

Read "Jazz Improvisation, Part 1" reviewed by Monk Rowe

Improvisation is at the core of a jazz performance and we called on Joe Wilder, Dianne Reeves, Bill Charlap and Charles McPherson to describe what it is and how it is done. ...

Album Review

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's

Read "The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Il 22 aprile scorso nel centenario della nascita di Charles Mingus la Resonance Records ha pubblicato un altro magistrale inedito storico. Ci riferiamo a The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's, registrato nell'agosto 1972 dalla CBS britannica nel celebre locale londinese. Non è tanto un disco perduto ma un documento accantonato per decenni, che vede protagonista l'inedito sestetto del bassista in una fase di transizione. Abbiamo quasi due ore e mezza di musica di qualità sonora eccellente e ...

Album Review

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's

Read "The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's" reviewed by Ken Dryden

Charles Mingus was larger than life as a composer, performer and bandleader. A writer of frequently difficult music, Mingus was demanding of himself and his musicians, yet he never wanted his works to sound overly polished. These recordings made over two consecutive nights at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in jny: London in 1971 were recorded to be released on Columbia Records. Unfortunately, the gross incompetence of the label's president, Clive Davis, who dropped the entire jazz roster in 1973, except ...

Album Review

John Beasley, Magnus Lindgren, SWR Big Band: Bird Lives

Read "Bird Lives" reviewed by Jim Worsley

Round about 2017 there was a meeting of the minds. Composers and musicians John Beasley and Magnus Lindgren evolved as kindred spirits, and chose to work together on a project engulfing their shared appreciation of Charlie Parker. This tribute to the man who came to be known simply as Bird, had trouble taking flight. Obstacles, none bigger than Covid, came along and stood in the way. Dedicated to its completion, the pair, along with the SWR Big Band, has now ...

Album Review

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's

Read "The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

After the emotional and economic bankruptcies of the late 1960s that nearly took him out of the picture entirely, 1972 broke well for Charles Mingus. He had re-signed with Columbia and delivered the revered Let My Children Hear Music. (He would, a year later, be part of the great Clive Davis jazz purge of 1973 which included Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, and, some argue Ornette Coleman.) Grants and commissions were coming in and his music, in all its bold, gnarly, ...

Album Review

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's

Read "The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's" reviewed by Mark Corroto

Professionally recorded for Columbia Records, but never released, this live concert from London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club is seeing the light of day some fifty years later, as well as marking the centennial celebration of Charles Mingus' birth. The music was never released, not because it was unworthy (it is indeed worthy), but because Mingus along with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman were let go by the label's chief, Clive Davis. Only Miles Davis survived the ...

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Performance / Tour

Charles Mcpherson's Both Sides Now

Charles Mcpherson's Both Sides Now

Source: Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes

It took two and a half-years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic lull, but alto saxophonist Charles McPherson finally got back to Artis-Naples. He appeared with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday, November 9 in the quintet's All That Jazz series. His last visit to Naples was about 10 years ago. On this night, he treated the audience to two sides of his musical psyche: a fine composer with wide-ranging material, and a true-blue bebopper who can add high-energy artistry ...



10 CD Discoveries of the Month

10 CD Discoveries of the Month

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Great jazz albums remain hard to come by, but an increasing number are leaving me impressed. It seems more care is going into their production with the explicit purpose of hooking and holding listeners. Wow, what a novel concept. Here are 10 albums that caught my ear...  Charles McPherson: The Journey (Capri). The alto saxophone legend delivers a gorgeous collection of deep ballads and searing standards. McPherson is joined by Keith Oxman on tenor, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker ...



Charles McPherson's Post-Bird Bop: A 70th-Birthday Tribute

Charles McPherson's Post-Bird Bop:  A 70th-Birthday Tribute

Source: Michael Ricci

Charles McPherson is an alto saxophonist who spent much of his early career under the spell of jazz great Charlie Parker–but who fired the Parker sound with his own intense energy and expressive skills. Championed by jazz writer Ira Gitler, McPherson made a number of records for Prestige throughout the mid-to-late 1960s, garnering generally good reviews and gaining notice in a 1967 Downbeat critics’ poll as “talent most deserving of wider recognition.” But it was the era of the avant-garde, ...



Saxophonist Charles McPherson Interviewed at AAJ

Saxophonist Charles McPherson Interviewed at AAJ

Source: All About Jazz

Having started his professional career at the age of nineteen, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson found himself working with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972, while also recording for the Prestige label under his own name.

Always inspired by Charlie Parker, but far more than just an acolyte, he has kept the bop fires blazing with his own distinctive sound and a body of work which is as impressive as it is enjoyable.

McPherson took time during his Fall 2007 tour ...

Richard Oppenheim
saxophone, alto
Don Hanson




Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Smoke Sessions Records


The Lost Album from...

Resonance Records


Mingus At Carnegie...

Atlantic Records


Bird Lives

ACT Music


Jazz Dance Suites

Chazz Mack Music


Love Walked In

Quadrant Records


Blues for Lonnie in Three

From: Reverence
By Charles McPherson



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