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Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Jazzmeia Horn are among the headliners in SummerStage's new season

Terence Blanchard onstage at Bryant Park Picnic Performances, Aug. 6. 2021.
Jennifer Taylor/Jennifer Taylor
Terence Blanchard onstage at Bryant Park Picnic Performances, Aug. 6. 2021.

Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage will kick off its 2022 season with reigning jazz royalty: keyboardist, composer, and NEA Jazz Master Herbie Hancock, on June 11 in Central Park. It's one of nearly 90 concerts, happening in parks across the five boroughs, that will comprise the first full SummerStage season in two years.

Erika Elliott, the Executive Artistic Director of SummerStage, tells WBGO that Hancock is an especially fitting artist to inaugurate the new season: "Someone like Herbie — who is so iconic, who has such a legacy, but is also forward-thinking and really embraces the next generation of artists and is so creative in his thinking — I think he's exactly the type of artist that we always try and champion."

Hancock's concert — presented in partnership with the Blue Note Jazz Festival, with trumpeter Keyon Harrold as an opener — is one of a handful of events on the new SummerStage schedule that will be of keen interest to jazz fans. The Revive Big Band, led by Igmar Thomas, will perform in Central Park on July 16, with Melanie Charles as an opener. Also in Central Park, Sons of Kemet will split a bill with Makaya McCraven on July 31. And in one of the last dates on the SummerStage schedule, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will appear on Aug. 31.

Among the ticketed benefits this season is a New Orleans show on June 13, with Trombone Shorty's Voodoo Threauxdown, Tank and the Bangas, Cyril Neville, Big Freedia, George Porter Jr. & Dumpstaphunk, and The Soul Rebels. Improv dynamics will also prevail in Maroons & Suffragates: A Greg Tate Tribute Concert on Aug. 20 in Marcus Garvey Park, featuring the late critic's Burnt Sugar, Harriet Tubman and others.

But the centerpiece jazz event of this SummerStage season will naturally be the 30th annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, Aug. 26-28. According to custom, it will happen both at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem and Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Featured artists include Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force; Terence Blanchard's E-Collective + the Turtle Island Quartet; Archie Shepp and Jason Moran; Buster Williams with Something More; and Melissa Aldana and Bria Skonberg, with their bands.

Keyon Harrold performing at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in 2018.
Livia Sa
Keyon Harrold performing at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in 2018.

"This is a festival that really holds a personal meaning for many artists," Elliott says, referring to the Charlie Parker Jazz Fest, which is largely programmed by Paula Abreu. "So we're proud of that legacy. And we really just try and do right by Charlie Parker — by the neighborhoods we present in, and by assembling hopefully a really wide range of artists working primarily in New York. The goal is always to be multi-generational and to pay tribute to Charlie Parker in neighborhoods where jazz was and is still so important."

WBGO is a media partner of Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage. For more information, including a full season announcement, visit summerstage.org.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.