What To Listen to in August – Free Shows in Central Park, Brooklyn and more

By Ernest Barteldes 

It’s always kind of bittersweet to write about the shows in the month of August because that is when most of the free concerts in the parks come to an end – sure, there are several benefits at Summerstage going as far as September, but honestly it’s not quite the same thing – there isn’t the excitement of falling in love with the music of an artist you’d never heard about that happened to on the bill for a night you went to see one of the favorites you were there to see in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times that happened to me in the years since I’ve been attending these shows – an example being on this very preview. 


Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye left us too soon in the early 1980s, but he left a treasure trove of music that resonates to this day. Among his most respected works is his 1971 album What’s Going On, a concept album whose songs chronicle a Vietnam vet returning home to an America who looks down on him with hatred and disdain – and listening to it today, it still feels relevant.  A supergroup led by former David Letterman bandmember Felicia Collins come together to pay tribute to that album – musicians include jazz drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and other luminaries – plus several guests (BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, August 9th at 7:30 PM) 


Closing the season for Celebrate Brooklyn is Colombia’s Bomba Estereo, a band led by Simón Mejía and singer and rapper Li Saumet. The band blends element from Cumbia and electronic sounds, coming up with a unique sound that carries the tradition of psychedelic cumbias from Colombia and Peru and also bands like Aterciopelados – definitely a show not to be missed (BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, August 10th) 


Lila Downs

The first time I heard the music of Lila Downs was around 2001 when I attended a performance by Brazil’s Luciana Souza and she happened to be sharing the bill with her. I was captivated by her energy on stage and also by her incredible vocal range – she can reach the lower notes of a contralto and then go up to the level of a soprano with ease, and her blend of traditional and contemporary sounds makes for a very enjoyable experience. (Summerstage in Central Park, August 11 at 7:00 PM) 

Selena was another victim of violence that was taken away from us way too soon, but her legacy is remembered at Selena For Sanctuary, an annual event that raises awareness for immigration rights – the event is themed on the late singer’s songs, and features various artists backed by the Santuario House Band under the musical direction of Adrian Quesada. (Summerstage in Central Park, August 18th at 8 PM) 

Closing the season for Summerstage is the Charlie Park Jazz festival, which is now expanded from its classic two-day, two-venue showcase to a much larger event in many venues – and the participants include the likes of Ravi Coltrane, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Michael Marcus and many more. It is something that I always try to attend, and I feel very satisfied with the music every time – and remember I have been in attendance for almost two decades now, and I am not yet tired of it.  

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