Bryant Park Picnic Performances, presented by Bank of America, concludes their summer season of free, live performances on Thursday, September 14 with a concert from the innovative jazz/soul crossover vocalist José James, performing the already-timeless songbook of Erykah Badu. This event is presented in collaboration with and on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of Harlem Stage, the performing arts center that bridges Harlem’s cultural legacy to contemporary artists of color and dares to provide the artistic freedom that gives birth to new ideas. 

Harlem Stage’s Artistic Director and CEO Pat Cruz says, “Harlem Stage is thrilled to open our 40th Anniversary season with José James, an innovative artist who has dazzled audiences around the world and in past performances at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. It is a pleasure to collaborate once again with our partners at Bryant Park.”

Bryant Park Corporation’s VP of Public Events, Dan Fishman says, “Bryant Park Picnic Performances aims to offer all New Yorkers the opportunity to experience the best of this city’s arts and culture. With that goal in mind, I cannot imagine a more fitting finale to our 2023 season than to celebrate 40 years of Harlem Stage with a performance by the one-of-a-kind artist, José James.”

Attendees to Bryant Park Picnic Performances may bring their own food or purchase from on-site food and beverage vendors near the Lawn. At all performances, attendees can discover new dishes and celebrate classics from the five boroughs with a rotating line-up of local artisanal vendors curated by Hester Street Fair. Stout NYC offers giant pretzels, gourmet popcorn and other light bites as well as a selection of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase.

Performance Details

Thursday, September 14 at 7PM

On & On: José James Sings Badu

Presented by Harlem Stage

The concluding program of Bryant Park Picnic Performances

Harlem Stage and Bryant Park present a FREE concert featuring international jazz artist, José James. 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 schoolchildren each year.

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Location and Subway Directions: Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Take the B, D, F, or M train to 42nd Street/Bryant Park; or, take the 7 train to 5th Avenue.