Charles McPherson was born in Joplin, Missouri and moved to Detroit at age nine. After growing up in Detroit, he studied with the renowned pianist Barry Harris and started playing jazz professionally at age 19. He moved from Detroit to New York in 1959 and performed with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972. While performing with Mingus, he collaborated frequently with Harris, Lonnie Hillyer, and George Coleman.
Mr. McPherson has performed at concerts and festivals with his own variety of groups, consisting of quartets, quintets to full orchestras. Charles was featured at Lincoln Center showcasing his original compositions 15 years ago, and once again joined Wynton Marsalis and J@LC Orchestra in April, 2019 honoring his 80th Birthday where they arranged and performed 7 of Charles’ iconic original compositions. Charles has toured the U.S., Europe, Japan, Africa and South America with his own group, as well as with jazz greats Barry Harris, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, Nat Adderly, Jay McShann, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
McPherson has recorded as a guest artist with Charlie Mingus, Barry Harris, Art Farmer, Kenny Drew, Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. He has recorded as a leader on Prestige, Fantasy, Mainstream, Discovery, Xanadu, Arabesque, Capri, several smaller labels in Europe and Japan and in 2019 released on his own label (Chazz Mack Music) the highly acclaimed Jazz Dance Suites.
Charles was the featured alto saxophonist in the Clint Eastwood film “Bird,” a biopic about Charlie Parker. Charles has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Don Redman Lifetime Achievement Award and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from California State University San Marcos. Widely recognized as a prolific composer, Charles is now Resident Composer for the San Diego Ballet, where he has written three original suites for chamber music and jazz combos.
McPherson remains a strong, viable force on the jazz scene today. Throughout his six decades of being an integral performer of the music, Charles has not merely remained true to his Be Bop origins, but has expanded on them. “Charles is the very definition of excellence in our music,” said Marsalis, a longtime admirer. “He’s the definitive master on his instrument. He plays with exceptional harmonic accuracy and sophistication. He performs free-flowing, melodic and thematically developed solos with unbelievable fire and an unparalleled depth of soul.”