Sometimes in jazz, the stars align and greatness shines through. One of the best examples was the concert of May 15, 1953, at Toronto’s Massey Hall, where five true innovators, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach, played a set together that showed exactly why they were giants.
That show lives on in a recording — Parker was given the pseudonym “Charlie Chan” on the cover — and in folklore. It was the last documented get-together in the earth-shaking collaboration of Gillespie and Parker. And that night, Parker surprised everybody by getting so much music out of a white plastic saxophone (now said to be on display at the American Jazz Museum). So is it any wonder that the jazz museum has signed a touring band that’s paying tribute to the music played at Massey Hall 61 years ago? They’ll play on Saturday night at the Gem Theater. And the group paying homage is a powerful one itself. It was put together by pianist Bill Charlap, a lyrical player whose style is spare and intense. He doesn’t sound like Powell, but he isn’t miscast — Charlap knows how to swing out, as the Massey Hall music requires, and he knows how to drive a band. Charlap will be complemented by a first-class New York rhythm section, with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation beyond being brothers in music). All three are first-call players, and they’ve worked together often. We’ll be hearing a lot of this trio — the Massey Hall audience heard a set of Powell’s trio before hearing the full quintet. But when the horns come on, watch out. The horns are trumpet star Jon Faddis, a protege of Gillespie who’s gone on to become a fine leader and his own man, and alto saxophonist Jesse Davis, a lesser-known but fine player who has a lot of Parker in his style and yet has his own things to say. The classic bebop of the Massey Hall concert is a durable foundation for almost everything that’s happened in jazz since. This band is digging down to the bedrock. Smooth and tough
Pianist, composer and producer Bob James came a long way from Marshall, Mo., to the pinnacle of jazz and pop crossover success. But he’s never forgotten where he comes from. His hometown celebrates him with the Bob James Jazz Festival this weekend. And while he’s in the area, he stops by Kansas City to record an episode of “12th Street Jump,” making him perhaps the most powerful jazz celebrity to be on the public radio show yet. James, whose most famous work is the song “Angela,” used as the theme to the sitcom “Taxi,” paid plenty of dues before fame came to visit and stuck around. As a pup, he was playing an excursion boat on the Lake of the Ozarks. By his early 20s, he was recording bebopp-ish piano for a major label and touring in singer Sarah Vaughan’s band, a job that demanded lots of quick thinking. By the late ’60s, James was established as one of those players who can come alive in the harsh and sterile confines of a studio. In the ’70s, he made some good records for the CTI label, which was a center of jazz and pop crossover activity. In these and the albums that came after, James became a founding father of smooth jazz. His grooves have been danced to and sampled around the world. Of course, he also remains a no-nonsense player in a straight-ahead idiom. He’s a man with a gift for reaching people. That should come through clearly in the “12th Street Jump” show, which tapes at 8 p.m. Thursday tonight at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway. Tickets are $15. Then there’s the Bob James Jazz Festival down the road in Marshall. Besides clinics and masterclasses for anyone who plays jazz, it culminates in a concert featuring James, the Sons of Brasil and stars from the clinics. That event is at 7 p.m. Saturday in Harold L. Lickey Auditorium in Bueker Middle School, 565 S. Odell Ave. in Marshall. Tickets are $25; check bobjamesjazzfest.org.
• The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has tenor saxophonist Matt Otto’s quintet at 8:30 p.m. Friday and bassist James Ward’s band at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Guitarist Matt Hopper is in charge of the Monday jam, at 7 p.m. • The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., features a return engagement of pianist Paul Shinn’s trio, at 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Green Lady also has organist Everette DeVan’s trio at 5:30 p.m. Thursday; pianist Tim Whitmer at 5:30 p.m. Friday; the jam led by bassist Bob Bowman and pianist Roger Wilder at 9 p.m. Monday; DeVan again at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Bram Wijnands and his B-3 Bombers at 9 p.m.; and organist Ken Lovern’s trio at 9 p.m. Wednesday. • Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has a homecoming show by tenor saxophonist Matt Carrillo, an old-school player in the Coleman Hawkins-Houston Person line, at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Bill Charlap Trio plus Jon Faddis and Jesse Davis perform at 8 p.m. at the Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St. Tickets start at $45. For more information, call 816-474-6262 or go to AmericanJazzMuseum.org.