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Charles McPherson’s Post-Bird Bop

Charles McPherson spent his early career under the spell of Charlie Parker, but he fired the Parker sound with his own intense energy and artistic skills.

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  • Charles McPherson Con Alma

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    Photo: Album cover

    Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson's 1960s Prestige albums records stand as evidence that the bebop movement could still produce vital music in the hands of skilled and passionate believers.

  • charles mcpherson bebop revisited

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    Photo: Album cover art.

    In a 1968 interview with Chris Albertson, McPherson criticized his contemporaries who, in his words, “segregated” themselves from certain kinds of music.

  • Mingus Let My Children

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    Photo: Album cover art.

    In addition to Charlie Parker, McPherson has also acknowledged a musical debt to bassist Charles Mingus, with whom he worked and recorded on a number of occasions. McPherson was given an important solo spot on Mingus' "The Chill of Death" in 1971.

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, Miles Davis’ second great quintet, and the emerging influence of rock. McPherson’s bebop-steeped sound struck some as antiquated.

In a 1968 interview with Chris Albertson, McPherson criticized his contemporaries, who ‘segregated’ themselves from certain kinds of music. “I don’t understand how cats can be my age and have missed Bird,” he said. “For instance, if a cat is studying psychology, he’s just got to read something about Freud. A musician must go way back and listen to all of it, all kinds of music..not just jazz. All the great cats did that; they knew no musical boundaries, they knew they couldn’t afford to be prejudiced.” Citing his habit of listening to everything from Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith to Stravinsky and Bach, McPherson said, “I learn from all of those cats, they all express beauty. There are still some of us who really dig love and beauty.”

Watch a recent interview with Charles McPherson:

Music Heard On This Episode

Lover
Charles McPherson — Beautiful (Xanadu, 1975)
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Lover
Charles McPherson — Beautiful (Xanadu, 1975)
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Nostalgia
Charles McPherson — Bebop Revisited (OJC, 1964)
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Lush Life
Charles McPherson — Horizons (OJC, 1969)
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Dexter Rides Again
Charles McPherson — Con Alma (OJC, 1965)
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Variations on a Blues by Bird
Charles McPherson — Bebop Revisited (OJC, 1964)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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McPherson's Mood
Charles McPherson — McPherson's Mood (OJC, 1969)
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Horizons
Charles McPherson — New Horizons (Xanadu, 1977)
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The Chill of Death
Charles Mingus — Let My Children Hear Music (Columbia, 1971)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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  • http://jazzindianaavenue.wordpress.com/ karen taborn

    Charles once told an old friend of mine, “Many people play music for the wrong reasons. There's only one reason to play music, to celebrate life”. I love this man for his music and his loving soul.

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