By Bill Berry
Of the performing arts, jazz music is paradoxically among the most universal, having been embraced by cultures throughout the world, and also the most American, as our country’s history, good and bad, precludes its having originated anywhere else!
October is National Arts and Humanities Month, and as a member of Parker’s Cultural Department, I am thrilled to highlight our team’s robust series of concerts celebrating this unique artform. And, by the way, it’s a personal thing too, as my late father, jazz trumpeter Bill Berry (yes, I’m a Junior), played on the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Carter, scores of recordings, movie soundtracks and 13 years on Merv Griffin’s television show during his 50-year career. Predictably, my own beginnings in the professional arts and entertainment field were through my connections in the jazz world, so I am particularly gratified by Parker Arts’ commitment to the music that is so much a part of my life.
On Nov. 24, the vocal jazz titans Take 6 — who wowed PACE Center audiences last year in their appearance with The Manhattan Transfer — bring a unique gospel and soul-inspired performance. I personally recall their 1989 Hollywood Bowl debut during my years on staff with the Playboy Jazz Festival. They were and are phenomenal! The great Nnenna Freelon will be joining them.
Our partnership with the Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra continues in the New Year with Friday night Schoolhouse Theater presentations featuring vocalist Robert Johnson on Feb. 16, a tribute to one of the greatest jazz recordings of all time, “Charlie Parker With Strings,” March 30, plus a March 2 PACE Center salute to Duke Ellington … dad’s old boss!
Finally, jazz superstar Branford Marsalis will bring his quartet to the PACE Center April 15, for what will surely be a sold-out event.
As Duke himself wrote, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”
Bill Berry is the Box Office Manager for Parker Arts. For more information about Parker Arts and its calendar of events, visit www.ParkerArts.org.