Jazz alumni join with classical staff to perform music by Charlie Parker

NZSM jazz alumni Daniel Hayles, Rory Macartney, Lauren Ellis, Eilish Wilson and Louisa Williamson will be sharing the stage with the famed New Zealand String Quartet to present 'Charlie Parker with Strings' in April.

Charlie Parker with Strings poster
The concert will feature music from the album Charlie Parker with Strings—a compilation album of jazz standards recorded by legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Parker (1920-55) was deeply interested in the music of Igor Stravinsky and had always wanted to perform with a string section. In 1949 he got his wish and made recordings with a mixed group of jazz and classical musicians.

Under the musical direction of NZSM Senior Lecturer Rodger Fox and alongside American alto-saxophonist Dick Oatts, the performers will recreate these recordings live as well as presenting new arrangements of Parker’s Bebop era music.

Louisa Williamson (saxophone), who has a Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Jazz Performance and is a current Masters student at NZSM, says it will be incredible to play alongside the string quartet. “I am extremely excited to collaborate with the NZSQ, I can't wait to recreate and interpret the beauty of this album with such high class musicians.”

The New Zealand School of Music, with its strong programmes in jazz and classical performance, was the natural place to start when looking for musicians to be part of this project, says Rodger Fox. “This is a ground-breaking project for New Zealand and I am very pleased to be able to have on stage colleagues and graduates from the NZSM. This embodies everything that the NZSM stands for—crossing the musical divide and being open to new ideas and experience. Naturally having the one and only Dick Oatts from New York City on Saxophone is the icing on the cake. I cannot wait for the first notes to be played.”

Artists in Residence at the New Zealand School of Music, the New Zealand String Quartet is New Zealand’s leading chamber ensemble. Sought-after for their imaginative and varied programming, they often collaborate with other musicians on projects. They’re looking forward to this experience, says Gillian Ansell, the group’s violist. “After many years of admiring Rodger’s skills, dedication and advocacy for jazz education in NZ, it will be great to finally work together! In the occasional experiences we in the NZSQ have had over the years playing with jazz musicians, there are fascinating things we pick up from them and let then seep into our own quartet music. I'm looking forward tremendously to this collaboration and especially the chance to spend a whole week on tour with these fabulous musicians.”

Charlie Parker with Strings is presented by Rodger Fox, and will tour around various regions in April, starting with a performance in Wellington on 15 April at the Memorial Theatre.