Steve Wilson (center) brought a quartet and a string section to the Kennedy Center to pay tribute to the Charlie Parker With Strings LP. i

Steve Wilson (center) brought a quartet and a string section to the Kennedy Center to pay tribute to the Charlie Parker With Strings LP. Sue Lyn Schramm hide caption

toggle caption Sue Lyn Schramm
Steve Wilson (center) brought a quartet and a string section to the Kennedy Center to pay tribute to the Charlie Parker With Strings LP.

Steve Wilson (center) brought a quartet and a string section to the Kennedy Center to pay tribute to the Charlie Parker With Strings LP.

Sue Lyn Schramm

JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Steve Wilson With Strings On JazzSetWBGO

Steve Wilson With Strings On JazzSet
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/146299034/161469341" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

To inaugurate the 2011-12 jazz season at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., director of jazz Kevin Struthers wanted something special and different. So he called on go-to alto sax man Steve Wilson, and Wilson delivered an all-star jazz group — Bruce Barth (piano), Michael Bowie (bass), Lewis Nash (drums) — plus three violins (Diane Monroe, Matvei Sigalov and Naira Underwood), a violist (Dawn Michelle Johnson), a cellist (Troy Kenneth Stuart) and high expectations.

They are here to play music from the legendary Charlie Parker With Strings sessions, recordings that the bebop master released in 1950. For Wilson's 50th birthday a year ago, David O'Rourke adapted and reconstructed the original parts for a celebration at Jazz Standard in New York — and now, for a short, spirited run at the KC Jazz Club.

In the original sessions, the strings play a mostly backing role to Charlie Parker. However, Wilson features his string section front and center. One highlight is violinist Diane Monroe and "Moon Mist," written by Mercer Ellington, but not included on the original LP. Another is "Ezz-thetic" by composer and music theorist George Russell for Ezzard Charles, the African-American boxing champion from the late 1940s into the '50s. When Charles beat Jersey Joe Walcott and then Joe Louis, he was the world heavyweight champ. Ezzard Charles was a noted bass player, as well; he jammed at Birdland back in the day.

Wilson says the modern-sounding "Ezz-thetic" is "really a peek into what might have been the next musical step in Charlie Parker's development." Parker died in 1955, leaving the future an open question.

Wilson has long been one of the busiest players in jazz. And yet he says that playing with a string section is one of the most exhilarating experiences he's had on the bandstand. For him, the strings have an emotional sound that is close to the human voice, and he shapes his solos to fit that sound. Wilson's personal favorite of the Charlie Parker With Strings songbook is our closing song, "Repetition," by Neil Hefti.

Set List
  • "What Is This Thing Called Love" (Cole Porter)
  • "East of the Sun" (Brooks Bowman)
  • "Easy to Love" (Porter)
  • "Moon Mist" (Mercer Ellington)
  • "Ezz-thetic" (Russell)
  • "April in Paris" (Vernon Duke & E.Y. Harburg)
  • "Repetition" (Hefti)
Credits

Recording and Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos with Greg Hartman and Christian Amonson of Big Mo Recording. Dee Dee Bridgewater's studio engineer is Ginger Bruner at KUNV Las Vegas.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Tania Maria. Jean-Baptiste Poulain/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Jean-Baptiste Poulain/Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Tania Maria On Piano Jazz

The Brazilian pianist and singer mixes frenetic originals with Antônio Carlos Jobim interpretations.

Tania Maria On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477960098/477961996" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Catherine Russell. Marv Goldschmitt/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Marv Goldschmitt/Courtesy of the artist

Jazz Night In America

Catherine Russell: Sunny Side Of The Street

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The singer assembles a vocal trio to take on a book of music she once sang with her mother.

Catherine Russell: Sunny Side Of The Street
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477822438/477824662" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jim Ferguson. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Jim Ferguson On Piano Jazz

The singing bassist presents original songs and standards in a session from 2001.

Jim Ferguson On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477064541/477065827" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Rose Murphy. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Rose Murphy On Piano Jazz

Hear the singer and pianist perform "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" in a 1988 session.

Rose Murphy In The Studio
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/476137289/476145176" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Carlos Henriquez in The Bronx. Lawrence Sumulong for Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Lawrence Sumulong for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz Night In America

Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The bassist spends a lot of time in Manhattan for Jazz at Lincoln Center, but his roots are uptown.

Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/476077535/476086613" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Ayako Shirasaki. Patrick Wamsganz/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Patrick Wamsganz/Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Ayako Shirasaki On Piano Jazz

Hear the Japanese pianist perform her compositions "Falling Leaves" and "Far Away."

Ayako Shirasaki In The Studio
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/474388065/474390434" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top