For more than 50 years, saxophonist Charles McPherson has been one of the most expressive and highly regarded voices in jazz. His rich musical style, rooted in the blues and bebop, has influenced and inspired generations of musicians and listeners.
McPherson was born in Joplin, MO, on July 24, 1939, and he developed a love for music at a young age. As a child, he began experimenting at the piano whenever one was available. He also attended summer concerts in Joplin that featured territory bands from the Midwest and Southwest. These concerts made a strong impression on McPherson, who was particularly enamored with the sound and shape of the saxophone.
McPherson moved to Detroit in 1948 at age 9. At that time, Detroit was home to one of the most vibrant jazz communities in the country. His new home was in the same neighborhood as his future mentor, pianist Barry Harris, as well as his friend and future bandmate, trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer. Additionally, McPherson now lived within blocks of the famed Blue Bird Inn jazz club.
“The street that I lived on just happened to be a street where Barry Harris lived right around the corner, five minutes away. A trumpet player named Lonnie Hillyer, who worked with Mingus along with myself for a long time, lived right on my street. And there was a jazz club a few blocks down on my street called the Blue Bird, which was, at that time, probably the hippest jazz club in Detroit. So it was interesting that, of all places, as big as Detroit is, I ended up on the same street as a really great local jazz club. The house band at that time was Barry Harris on piano, Pepper Adams playing baritone sax, Paul Chambers or Beans Richardson (on bass), and Elvin Jones was the house drummer.”