Charles McPherson: How to Practice Jazz

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Charles McPherson has been a musical hero of mine for decades. The fact that we have become good friends over the past 15 years has only enhanced my respect for Charles as a musician and as a human being. He is a self-effacing individual who manifests integrity in everything he does and is always available to help others. He cares deeply about his family, jazz, and the world in which we live. All of this infuses his music with a sense of love and profundity not commonly found. He has been a role model to generations of jazz fans and alto saxophonists and is still exploring new avenues of expression within the bebop/post bebop tradition. I think you’ll find this interview enlightening and inspiring. I’m honored to present one of the true legends of jazz and saxophone as part of the Woodwind Legacy Series. For more info about Charles McPherson, please visit his website at

Charles comes out of the great jazz city of Detroit where he began his studies under the mentorship of the legendary jazz pianist, Barry Harris. Upon moving to New York in 1959, Charles began gigging and soon thereafter started working with Charles Mingus. He remained with Mingus’ band from 1960-1972—the longest tenure of any saxophonist with Mingus. Since then, he has recorded over 25 albums as a leader for the Prestige, Fantasy, Mainstream, Discovery, Xanadu, and Arabesque record labels. He was also the featured alto saxophonist on the 1988 biographical film of Charlie Parker— “Bird.” He has performed with virtually every major jazz artist and big band throughout the world in the past 50 years. Charles recently composed the music to a ballet entitled “Sweet Synergy Suite,” which received its premiere in 2014 in his adopted hometown of San Diego.


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