Charles McPherson

Saxophone – Jazz Institute, Advanced Package


harles McPherson is a living legend, one of the all-time greats of bebop, post=bob, and the alto saxophone.

He also happens to be one of the world’s great educators, connecting deeply with students at SJW over the years, and providing a tremendous inspiration for their musical development, and a positive influence in their lives in general.

Connecting with Charles is one of the best things you can do for your own growth as a musician, and we invite you to do so this summer at Jazz Institute!

Charles was born in Joplin, Missouri but grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where he studied with the renowned pianist Barry Harris and started playing jazz professionally at age 19. He moved from Detroit to New York in 1959 and performed with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972. While performing with Mingus, he collaborated frequently with Harris, trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer, and tenor saxophonist George Coleman.

Charles has performed at concerts and festivals with his own variety of groups, consisting of quartets, quintets to full orchestras. He has toured the U.S., Europe, Japan, Africa and South America with his own group, as well as with jazz greats Barry Harris, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, Nat Adderly, Jay McShann, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

He has recorded as guest artist with Charlie Mingus, Barry Harris, Art Farmer, Kenny Drew, Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. He has recorded as leader on Prestige, Fantasy, Mainstream, Discovery, Xanadu, and most recently Arabesque. Charles was also the featured alto saxophonist in the Clint Eastwood film “Bird,” a biography about Charlie Parker.

Charles remains a strong, viable force on the jazz scene today. He is at the height of his powers. His playing combines passionate feeling with intricate patterns of improvisation. Throughout his five decades of being an integral performer of the music, Charles has not merely remained true to his bebop origins, but has expanded on them. Stanley Crouch says in his New York Times article on Charles, “He is a singular voice who has never sacrificed the fluidity of his melody making and is held in high esteem by musicians both long seasoned and young.”

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