A number of jazz legends celebrated big achievements this month. From July 20 to July 23, Charles McPherson had his 84th birthday at Dizzy’s, Amsterdam News reports. McPherson is one of the most recognized musical talents and considered one of the greatest alto saxophonists of our time. The two-night event featured a performance from McPherson of his greatest hits alongside trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Jeb Patton, bassist David Wong, and drummer Billy Drummond.
The festivities didn’t end there. On July 23, composer and trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah celebrated the debut of his memoir, A Strange Celestial Road: My Time in the Sun Ra Arkestra, with a book signing at Sista’s Place on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. Abdullah spoke to Amsterdam News about his new book, which had been in the works since 1997.
“I had just left the Sun Ra Arkestra, and I wanted to share my valuable experience of working with him and his understanding of who we are as Black people,” he said.
Abdullah toured with Sun Ra extensively and was featured on 25 of the bandleader’s recordings. He worked with the Arkestra on and off from 1975 until 1993, when Sun Ra passed away. “Sun Ra often told us [band members] he was doing music for the 21st century,” he said.
On July 10, bandleader and composer Joe Wilder was posthumously honored with a Congressional Gold Medal in Harlem, New York. His wife and his daughter were in attendance at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where they were presented with the award in his stead. Wilder was a renowned trumpeter who, during his stint in the Marine Corps, served as assistant bandmaster, the first Black man to hold that position.
While Wilder’s acknowledgement came after his passing, many musicians have taken it upon themselves to celebrate their life’s achievements while they are still here. In March 2023, musical legend Chaka Khan took to the stage to salute her career with a party and duet with Stevie Wonder. For more information on Abdullah’s book signing, contact (718) 398-1766.
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