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Harlem Stage: José James Sings Badu

40th anniversary celebration
Jazz singer Jose James stands on a stage performing.
Jose James
September 14, 2023, 7:00pm–8:30pm

Often referred to as a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation, or as Pitchfork called him, “one of the suavest vocal improvisers on the scene”, vocalist José James combines jazz, soul, R&B and hip hop into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. An artist who shows love to those who inspire him, James has dedicated entire projects to artists whose music he's admired. Over the past decade, James has brought tributes to Billie Holiday and Gil Scott-Heron to the historic Harlem Stage Gatehouse. 

Co-presented by Harlem Stage and Bryant Park on the occasion of Harlem Stage’s 40th anniversary, James performs On & On: José James Sings Badu, his latest record honoring the legendary high priestess of neo-soul, singer-songwriter Erykah Badu. His new project finds James throwing down the gauntlet on the past 100 years of jazz singing while charting a path forward for the culture. The album, produced by James, investigates the breadth of Badu’s iconic catalog, from her groundbreaking debut, Baduizm, to her contemporary masterpieces, New Amerykah Pt. 1 and 2. 

“It’s simple,” James explains. “Jazz singing has always been about interpreting the highest level of standards of your time. And for my generation Erykah Badu has been one of the most innovative and incisive songwriters. Her work has proven to be groundbreaking in a social, musical, and artistic sense.” Join us at Bryant Park for a celebration that both closes Bryant Park’s summer Picnic Performances series and kicks off Harlem Stage’s landmark 40th Anniversary Season.

For nearly 40 years Harlem Stage's singular mission has been to perpetuate and celebrate the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture. Harlem Stage provides opportunity, commissioning, and support for visionary artists of color, makes performances easily accessible to all audiences and introduces children to the rich diversity, excitement, and inspiration of the performing arts.

With a long-standing tradition of supporting artists and organizations around the corner and across the globe, Harlem Stage boasts productions featuring such legendary artists as Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Sekou Sundiata, Abbey Lincoln, Sonia Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri, Maya Angelou, and Tito Puente, as well as contemporary artists like Mumu Fresh, Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité, Xian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Tamar kali, Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jason Moran, José James, Nona Hendryx, Bill T. Jones, and more. Harlem Stage's education programs serve over 2,300 New York City school children each year.

Bryant Park Picnic Performances presented by Bank of America is a free outdoor festival that welcomes all New Yorkers to experience the city’s vibrant arts and culture. The series provides a platform for extraordinary artists and serves as a vital outdoor venue for a wide array of New York’s cultural institutions.

On the lawn

Bring your own picnic or purchase food and drinks from tents on the east side of the lawn. Attendees can enjoy cuisine from the five boroughs with a rotating line-up of artisanal vendors curated by Hester Street Fair.

Stout NYC also offers giant pretzels, gourmet popcorn and other light bites as well as a selection of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase.

Bryant Park lends out hundreds of free blankets on a first-come, first-served basis, or bring your own cotton or fleece blanket. To protect the lawn, please do not sit on waterproof materials such as plastic tarps, yoga mats, or inflatable chairs. 

Take a seat in one of the pre-set chairs on the lawn or grab a chair from the gravel. You can use a chair anywhere in the park except for the center lawn "blanket zone". 

Find a parachute, giant Jenga, and more fun on the east side of the lawn at select events. 

We love dogs, but dog urine can leave the lawn with bald spots. Dogs are welcome on the gravel and bluestone, but please do not bring dogs on the lawn. 

Performances are cancelled when it is unsafe to be outdoors. In some cases, the lawn may be too wet to open but the performance may continue. Follow @bryantparknyc on Twitter and Instagram for day-of event updates. You can also check the lawn status on the homepage.