No Tears Suite [Jazz Series]

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6:00 PM—The Oxford American is excited to present No Tears Suite at Central High School in Little Rock! This is a special addition to our 2017-18 Jazz Series. The event begins at 6:00 PM, and it is free and open to the public. No Tears Suite is in partnership with UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication; National Park Service; Central High School National Historic Site; Stella Boyle Smith Trust; ACANSA Arts Festival; Arkansas Flag and BannerChuck Cliett & Jay Barth; Marion Fulk & Jeff Rosenzweig; and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, among many others.


The No Tears Suite is a new 30-minute, large ensemble jazz composition inspired by Melba Patillo Beals’s memoir Warriors Don’t Cry, and written in honor of unity for the sixtieth anniversary of the 1957 Central High School desegregation crisis by Little Rock composer and jazz pianist Chris Parker. Joining Parker for the premiere is an ensemble of exceptional regional and national talent, including GRAMMY-winning drummer Brian Blade (Shreveport, LA), New Orleans native bassist Bill Huntington, tenor saxophonist Bobby LaVell (New York City), Memphis-based trumpeter Marc Franklin, alto saxophonist Chad Fowler, vocalist Kelley Hurt, and special guest vocalist/arranger I.J. Routen (Little Rock, AR). In addition to the No Tears Suite, over the course of a 90-minute set, the ensemble will play a variety of Arkansas- and civil rights-inspired tunes, including works by Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers, John Stubblefield, and Charles Mingus. From 12:00 PM–6:00 PM, student music ensembles from area high schools and colleges will play on the stage. (For a full schedule of events, visit uca.edu/cfac/central60.)

Chris Parker is a native of North Little Rock and has composed for a wide variety of groups, ranging from small jazz and chamber ensembles to full symphony orchestras. He has played and recorded internationally with artists such as Benny Powell, John Stubblefield, Rodney Jordon, and Bennie Wallace. He also heads his own group, with whom he has released albums featuring original jazz compositions that explore a diverse array of styles, including funk, calypso, and straight-ahead. Parker received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in jazz performance at University of Memphis and is currently a music teacher at Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock.

Brian Blade is a GRAMMY-winning drummer and jazz luminary. He leads the acclaimed Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band and has been a member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet since 2000. He has been nominated for multiple GRAMMYs, and in 2015 he won Best Jazz Instrumental Album with the Chick Corea Trio. In sessions, he has worked with artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Bob Dylan. In 2013, he won an ECHO Jazz Award for “International Artist of the Year Drums/Percussion.”

Bassist Bill Huntington, a native of New Orleans, has long been revered in the jazz world. Beginning in the early 1950s, he learned to play from several first generation jazz-musicians, including banjoist Lawrence Marrero and bassist Albert Glenny (who’d played in Buddy Bolden’s band at the turn of the century). Huntington’s recording and performing credits number in the hundreds; he’s worked with a range of artists from Doc Cheatham to Ellis Marsalis to Dr. John. As a charter member of the Loyola University Jazz Department and a mainstay in the New Orleans music scene, he has mentored many exceptional musicians, including Victor Goines (woodwinds), John Hebert (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Peter Martin (piano), and Jason Marsalis (drums). Huntington has lived in Little Rock since 2005.

Tenor saxophonist Bobby LaVell grew up immersed in the Memphis music scene—his first musical influence was his father, pianist and organist Honeymoon Garner. LaVell has been featured with Slide Hampton, Grover Washington, Jimmy Heath, and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, among others. Along with pianist George Caldwell, he released the album Accord in 2017, which received four stars from Downbeat magazine.

The premiere of the No Tears Suite is part of a larger three-day series of multidisciplinary events presented in partnership with University of Central Arkansas College of Fine Arts & Communication (UCA-CFAC), Central High School National Historic Site (CHSC), the National Park Service, and ACANSA Arts Festival, among many others. The events are designed to commemorate this important moment in American civil rights history, using the arts as a catalyst for community unity. Another major premiere occurring during the three days of events is UCA-CFAC’s Imagine If Buildings Could Talk, a nine-minute projection-mapping video that will illuminate the front façade of Central High School and tell the story of Central High School from blueprints to present-day.