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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Donald Harrison

The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival almost bit the dust a couple of years ago, but thankfully it remains one of the highlights of New York’s summer jazz calendar. After several memorable runs in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, the festival morphed into a two-day affair, keeping its original home but adding another: Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. Now it spans the island of Manhattan, from Charlie Parker Place on Avenue B to the streets near where Minton’s Playhouse once stood.

This year’s lineup boasted the great Jimmy Heath on both days. The downtown portion, on August 22, also featured Frank Morgan and Kenny Garrett (altoists bridging the generations) as well as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. The uptown portion, on August 21, could well have been canceled thanks to torrential afternoon rains, but the storm let up in time for Rachel Z and her trio to take the stage, about 30 minutes late. “You have to study Bird or you can’t play jazz,” Z rightly told the crowd before embarking on a bright reading of “Anthropology.” Unfortunately, bassist Chris Luard and drummer Bobbie Rae were a clunky, unswinging pair. As the set progressed, with tunes like “Confirmation” and Sting’s “Fragile,” one longed to hear Z, a strong pianist, with a fiercer rhythm section.

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