Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
Marcus Garvey Park; Sat 23 Tompkins Square Park; Sun 24
Tue Aug 12 2008
Photograph: Jos L. Knaepen
We’re happy to second bandleader-blogger Darcy James Argue’s recent online proclamation that the jazz wars have officially ended. As Argue astutely pointed out, that early-aughts conflict, which pitted traditionalists like Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Wynton Marsalis against champions of free jazz and fusion, was largely a virtual one: “While a lot of critical ink was spilled on both sides,” Argue wrote, “few musicians actually took up arms themselves.” Witness, for example, this year’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, at which an avant-garde icon and several prominent hybridists share billing with bop royalty. Attendees are more likely to encounter family-friendly fun rather than aesthetic squabbling.
Drummer Rashied Ali, performing on Saturday, lived through an earlier jazz war, when the rhythmic atomizations he pioneered in John Coltrane’s mid-’60s band drew critical ire. Ali has continued in that searching vein, but you should expect to hear his lithe, vibrant take on mainstream jazz at Marcus Garvey. Also on the bill is Robert Glasper, a young postbop pianist who moonlights as Mos Def’s music director. These two open for Detroit-born pianist Barry Harris, who has devoted his life to spreading Charlie Parker’s gospel, mentoring such players as former Mingus sideman Charles McPherson, who also appears Saturday. The respective African and Afro-Cuban elements in Sunday’s sets by pianist Randy Weston and trumpeter-percussionist Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache may seem unorthodox, but don’t be surprised if both artists touch on a common cornerstone: Parker’s esteemed contemporary Thelonious Monk.