Famous saxophonist leads night of jazz at CSUSM

Dylan McCall, Assistant Entertainment Editor

Charles McPherson has been playing saxophone for more than 50 years. He was known to play with his mentor, Charles Mingus, but branched out to make a successful living for himself.


McPherson is a regarded composer and a bebop and blues musician.

Bebop is a style of jazz different from typical jazz including a faster tempo, rapid chord changes, improvisation, etc.


Coming from the swing era, bebop was developed to expand creativity in younger musicians and requires close listening to understand.


CSUSM Arts and Lectures, co-sponsored by the CSUSM music department, invited Dr. McPherson to perform music improvisation with CSUSM’s jazz faculty on Oct. 23.


Mtafiti Imara, CSUSM’s department chair for the school of arts – music, welcomed everyone to the event and defined improvisation.


Paraphrasing McPherson’s own definitions Imara said, “[improvisation] is a metaphor for life … one of the things he [McPherson] talked about was the notion of organized chaos. So, the idea of having just enough organization to keep the music together, but still free enough and loose enough to have a feeling of spontaneity.”


In regards to the metaphor for life, Imara said, “it requires both a fearlessness and having skill … a great deal of work [is necessary] to gain these skills.”


Imara introduced the CSUSM jazz faculty; a group of three CSUSM lecturers and a special guest from UCSD. Richard Sellers on drums, Mackenzie Leighton on bass, Curtis Taylor on trumpet and special guest Kamau Kenyatta on piano. McPherson joined the four afterward.


Throughout the night, Sellers, Leighton, Taylor, Kenyatta and McPherson played a total of seven songs. The first was “What Is This Thing Called Love?” by Cole Porter. The second song was “All the Things You Are” by Jerome Kern. The third song was a ballad entitled “Old Folks” by Etta Jones. On the fourth, Taylor “brought some life” according to McPherson, to their playlist with trumpet improvisation and support from the rest of the group.


The fifth song was an improvised Blues tempo. The sixth song was “On Green Dolphin Street” recorded as a jazz track by Miles Davis in 1958. The final song was “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole.


After the last song, the performers received a standing ovation from the audience and thanked guests for attending the show.


For more information about Dr. Charles McPherson regarding bookings and events visit https://www.charlesmcpherson.com/