Charlie Parker Jazz Festival 2014 Event Review

Charlie Parker Festival

Photo Courtesy of FDRMX 

There were some amazingly talented jazz cats playing at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival today. The SummerStage NYC event opened with Kris Bowers and company. Himself playing a Rhodes keyboard, his guitarist on a thin line red Gibson, and his bassist holding it down with drummer, Bowers wowed the audience with his rhythm keys as well as some amazing solos on the grand behind piano situated behind the Rhodes and Nord electric. For many of the songs he brought our Chris Turner to sing vocals. With the pan-African flag hanging in the background, their set included songs from his album #TheProtester, such as “Sticky Green,” “No Way,” “Who Are We,” “Wonderlove,” and the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile,” which did indeed make the audience smile as soon as Turner uttered the first lyric. After “Who Are We,” Bowers took the time to explain about the song and his album. “ That song is dedicated to all those in Ferguson. While we found such power in our voices through social media…. There are those that use it superficially, and just hashtag something, so that’s why my album is #TheProtestor, and that song’s dedicated to those in Ferguson.”

Second up with the marvelous Melissa Aldana and her Crash Trio, who have also just recently released their self-titled album together on June 17th. The moment Crash Trio started playing, people started dancing.  Aldana stayed on her preferred tenor sax the whole time, with Francisco Mela just plain killing it on drums and and Pablo Menares walking it everywhere on upright bass, the trio displayed their incredible ability to lock in with each other tighter than a headhband. No vocals here, just good old improv back and forth and around, on “M&M,” “New Points,” “Pongy,” “Alegria,” and “Back Home.” Fans will get to see Aldana and the Crash Trio perform later this year at Monterey Pop Festival. Read an exclusive interview with Aldana on the Encyclopedia of Music here.

Guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke with his custom made steel-string acoustic electric and his scatted vocals in his native language. One song had sort of a Bobby McFerrin style to it, while his closing song was sung through a vocal harmonizer included clicks, scats and lyrics in a foreign language. He was tickling and slapping the strings of his guitar, while his bassist Massimo Biolcati played an ukulele electric bass, and his drummer Ferenc Nemeth made the kit sound completely different than the first two drummers. The Gilfema trio  brought a vibrant flavor to the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. 

Last up was trumpeter Wallace Roney and his backing orchestra. This performance was special in a significant way to say the least. In an incredibly generous gesture, legendary jazz composer Wayne Shorter gifted the scores of two pieces he had written for Miles Davis, but that had never been performed or recorded. As Miles Davis’ only protégé, Roney was clearly the choice recipient for these pieces, which those at SummerStage in Marcus Garvey Park were lucky enough to hear. A total of five pieces of Wayne Shorter’s were actually played. Needless to say, everyone immediately quieted down as soon as Roney stepped out on stage. The backing orchestra a twenty-two piece, the sound filled the arena with a presence that drew people to the amphitheater even though all the seats were packed and standing room was scarce. Roney took the lead in Miles-style fashion. 

Jazz fans, check back in with FDRMX next week for an exclusive interview with Kurt Rosenwinkel before he heads out to perform at Dazzle Jazz in Denver, Chicago Jazz Festival, a big show in Paris at Jazz a la Villette as a special guest with bassist Avishai Cohen, and then returning to play a week at the Village Vanguard.

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