Fox and star cast interpret “Bird” Parker’s classic work

Internationally-acclaimed saxophonist Dick Oatts has travelled from New York to star in Rodger Fox’s live presentation of famous jazz-classical music recordings, Charlie Parker With Strings. Photo supplied

By PJ Taylor

Rodger Fox is New Zealand’s king of big band jazz, but his latest musical project fuses the instruments of the classical domain with those of the jazz arena to present a modern interpretation of a famous work by legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker.

Fox is touring Charlie Parker With Strings, recordings originally made by “Bird” Parker back in 1949-50, and the only Auckland show plays out at Howick’s Uxbridge Arts and Culture centre this Easter Saturday, April 20.

Headlining musical director Fox’s cast of top-quality musicians for the concert is Dick Oatts, a New York-based saxophonist who’ll be playing alto, alongside the New Zealand String Quartet and Jazz Ensemble.

Charlie Parker With Strings place Parker in the context of a small classical string section and a jazz rhythm section, rather than his standard bebop quintet,” Fox says.

“The jazz and classical worlds find common ground. Swinging rhythms with lush strings and a twist of bebop.

“They were Parker’s most popular sellers during his lifetime, and were admitted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988.”

Fox, a world-class trombonist who has been one of New Zealand’s leading jazz players, band leaders and teachers for more than four decades, has staged many different styles of shows during his illustrious career and Oatts is the latest of nearly 100 jazz stars that Fox has brought to these shores.

“Dick Oatts combines with a rhythm section, string quartet and two woodwind players to recreate this series of musical arrangements, as well as adding new arrangements of Parker’s bebop era,” Fox says.

Oatts’ international standing is best qualified as the featured soloist in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra from the late 1970s, and he still holds down that role in the present day incarnation, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

“He’s accompanied such vocalists as Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, and Milton Nascimento. He’s also recorded solos for Luther Vandross and Everything But The Girl,” Fox says.

The ensemble for Charlie Parker With Strings is: Dick Oatts (alto saxophone), Rodger Fox (music director/conductor), Daniel Hayles (piano), Rory Macartney (bass), Lauren Ellis (drums), Eilish Wilson (baritone sax/bass clarinet/flute), and Louisa Williamson (tenor sax/flute/clarinet).

The only Auckland concert of Charlie Parker With Strings is on Saturday, April 20, at Howick’s Uxbridge Theatre. Phone 535 6467, or see www.uxbridge.org.nz.