The permanent amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem is a void right now. It's being rebuilt, band shell and seating. So the Harlem part of the two-day Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, on Saturday afternoon, was moved to a rented stage on a lawn at the northeast corner of the park, next to the farmer's market, which was still open when the first band started. Later on, a boisterous African drum circle took shape not 100 feet from the stage while McCoy Tyner, though unhappy with the piano's tuning, boistered back through a solo set.
The free festival has corporate sponsorship but soul prestige; for a Parks Department gig, it books competitively. In the Harlem lineup was Revive Da Live, the changeable collective of young musicians combining jazz and hip-hop; the tenor saxophonist J. D. Allen's trio; the pianist Jason Moran with his trio, Bandwagon; and Mr. Tyner, one of jazz's bishops since his time with John Coltrane's quartet in the early 1960s. (Part 2 of the festival took place Sunday at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.)
It was a really, really good scene, despite the direct sun pouring down on the audience and the stage. This is where some of the best dreams and desires for jazz in America, neither commercial nor bohemian, come out in a burst: jazz is a cause to defend, a collective memory, a spiritual thing, a Harlem thing. Politicians knew enough to be there: Representative Charles B. Rangel, State Senator Bill Perkins. So did lots of musicians, checking out their friends. Older men and women with hats and picnic baskets, returnees every year, all looking as if they owned their patch of park, asking who brought the corkscrew and what's the name of that song. A festival operative standing in front of the stage, hollering praise during the music like a running commentary.