Charles McPherson Collaborates With San Diego Ballet on New Recording
Charles McPherson, an iconic jazz luminary who has been releasing albums steadily since the mid 1960's, will be releasing a potentially groundbreaking new album on September 25th. Entitled Jazz Dance Suites and inspired by his ballet dancer daughter Camille, this new project is a collaboration with the San Diego Ballet. Camille is currently in her 8th season with the prestigious company. Trumpeter Terrell Stafford, vocalist Lorraine Castellanos, pianists Jeb Patton and Randy Porter, drummer Billy Drummond, bassist David Wong and guitarist Yotam Silberstein round out the ensemble.
Jazz Dance Suites demonstrates a decidedly fresh and exciting relationship between the jazz and dance artforms and speaks to McPherson's stellar range as an artist. Since 1972, McPherson has toured internationally both as a bandleader and as a sideman with the upper echelon of jazz greats such as Billy Eckstine, Nat Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis. Throughout his six decades of being an integral performer of the music, Charles has not merely remained true to his bebop origins but has expanded on them. Jazz Dance Suites is a departure from the traditional bop sensibilities of most of his previous work. It contains numerous examples of improvisational brilliance while emphasizing McPherson's writing which demonstrates a broad range of influences and reflects a genre that is new to his compositional output: dance music.
The first suite, "Song of Songs", written for the ballet in 2019, is inspired by the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon and focuses on the theme of unrequited love. Each of the eight movements in the piece focus on an emotion expressed by or related to a character or specific event in the original text.
"Reflection of an Election" was written in response, and in protest to the 2016 U.S Presidential Election. This piece is a selection from McPherson's second ballet suite, Reflection, Turmoil and Hope and was adapted from its initial orchestration for saxophone, violin, cello and bass to be performed by a saxophone and rhythm section. Here, McPherson nods at the great big band lead alto playing including pronounced scoops that are reminiscent of Johnny Hodges, and, by extension, the music of Duke Ellington. The piece also harkens shades of Charles Mingus' blues-fueled protest-centric pieces. McPherson takes the listener on a powerful, intense journey that characterizes the composer's response to the 2016 U.S election.
"Sweet Synergy Suite" was the first work composed by McPherson for the San Diego Ballet. The piece as a whole prominently features jazz and Afro-Latin fusion, and reflects a wide array of musical influences over the course of the suite's six movements.
In the first quarter of the 20th century, jazz music was intrinsically linked to dance. With the invention of bebop, the artform shifted away from the world of dance and towards a style that demands focused attention from listening audiences. Now, a century later, Charles McPherson has shown us that dance and the nuance of bebop and modern jazz can exist in the same context.
Photo Credit: Tariq Johnson