Charlie Parker Jazz Festival Celebrates Legendary Musician Uptown and Downtown

By Jeff Mays on August 24, 2011 7:32am 

A performer at at recent Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.
A performer at at recent Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.
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City Parks Foundation

HARLEM — The two-day Charlie Parker Jazz Festival will be held in Harlem this weekend, where the legendary saxophonist had his famous jam sessions, and in the East Village, the neighborhood he called home.

Now in its 19th consecutive year, the festival kicks off in Marcus Garvey Park on Saturday and will be the largest event the newly renovated Richard Rodgers Amphitheater has hosted.

"The space is definitely going to be utilized," said James Burke, director of the City Parks Foundation's Arts and Cultural Programs.

Then, the music will move Downtown to Tompkins Square Park Sunday.

"It's always Uptown where he worked and Downtown where he lived," Burke said of Parker, better known by his nickname "Bird."

The legendary alto sax player is credited with helping create the frenetic jazz style known as bebop.

The Uptown portion of the festival on Saturday starts at 3 p.m. and will be headlined by Jean "Toots" Thielemans, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master regarded as one of the preeminent jazz harmonica players. Other performers include saxophonist James Carter.

Sunday's festivities at Tompkins Square Park also begin at 3 p.m. and will be headlined by saxophonist Archie Shepp. Also performing will be songstress Madeleine Peyroux.

The festival usually draws a sophisticated crowd, organizers said.

"These people know their jazz, and they are coming to celebrate the legacy of Bird," Burke said.

A free discussion about Parker and his legacy will be held Fri., Aug. 26, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Harlem School of the Arts, 645 St. Nicholas Ave.

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