An alto saxophonist inspired by Charlie Parker but having his own tone, Charles McPherson (b. 1939) can always be relied upon to give 100 percent. McPherson grew up in Detroit, began playing alto when he was 13, and studied with pianist Barry Harris.
The altoist moved to New York in 1959 and a year later joined Charles Mingus, succeeding Eric Dolphy. McPherson worked with the bassist on and off during the following 14 years, adding his Charlie Parker sound to Mingus’s adventurous settings. He also played with Harris and his fellow Detroiter trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer in addition to heading his own quartets.
Between 1964 and 1969, McPherson recorded six albums for Prestige that constitute some of the finest work of his career. Bebop Revisited! is a quintet set with Barry Harris and trumpeter Carmell Jones on which the musicians mostly perform bop classics, including "Hot House,” "Nostalgia,” and "Wail.” Con Alma! has McPherson teaming with Harris and tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan for jazz standards plus McPherson’s "I Don’t Know,” which is similar to "Parker’s Mood.” On Live at the Five Spot, McPherson and Hillyer interpret a program ranging from "Shaw ’Nuff” to "Never Let Me Go” and the funky "The Viper.” From This Moment On, with pianist Cedar Walton and guitarist Pat Martino, Horizons (a similar group with Nasir Rashid Hafiz added on vibes); and the quartet outing McPherson’s Mood wrap up the altoist’s Prestige period.
Charles McPherson, who moved to San Diego in 1978 and played on the soundtrack of both Sweet Love Bitter and Bird, has stuck to the same rewarding musical path up to the present time, finding his own voice in the Charlie Parker style.