From forming their band at Andrew Jackson High School in 1964, to being the first band to play at the New York State Pavilion during the World’s Fair that same year, to performing at Spike Lee’s wedding reception, brothers Carl Bartlett Sr. and Charles Bartlett Jr. have done it all in the music scene.
This September, they invite the public to join them for their band’s 50th anniversary weekend celebration in Jamaica.
Bartlett Contemporaries with the Next Generation Sound, presented by the Bartlett Foundation Inc., will be hosting “A Weekend to Remember” from Friday, Sept. 11, to Sunday, Sept. 13, to celebrate the band’s many accomplishments during their half-century of performing.
The Bartlett brothers had a lot of early success, opening for Latin performers Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente.
“They used to call us Bartlette Contemporaries [with an E] to give us a little Latin flair,” Charles Bartlett said. “The reason why we got into Latin and jazz, and ultimately R&B…it enabled us to reach wide audiences.”
Some of the key performances by Bartlett Contemporaries over the years include performing for Oprah Winfrey’s book party in Miami, performing at Miles Davis’ 60th birthday bash, performing for six Essence Awards parties, and many more.
“For Spike Lee, that was his wedding reception, so that made it personal,” Carl Bartlett said. “It was a great experience for my brother and I as co-leaders of the band and the band members. On that same par, playing for Oprah was great because we knew that when we got this call to do a very important engagement in Miami, we knew that was big because they said, ‘Give us a wish list of whatever equipment you need down there.’”
The Bartletts’ popularity, technical skill and work as educators has won them several prestigious awards including the New York State Proclamation for Living Music Legends in Queens, the NAACP Community Involvement Award, a citation from Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi for service to Hofstra University, among several others.
The anniversary celebration kicks off on Sept. 11 for a meet and greet with the Bartletts at Proper Café in Jamaica.
On Sept. 12 the band will host their 50th anniversary concert at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College. The black tie event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. where the band will perform “From Bebop to Hip-Hop,” featuring the music of Frank Sinatra to Justin Timberlake, from Madonna to Lady Gaga, from Earth Wind & Fire to Pharrell, and more. An after party will be held from 8 to 10 p.m.
“So many people consider them a dance band…so we built in the after party, which will be right there at the concert, and all of the ticket prices will include the after party,” said Philippa L. Karteron, president and CEO of Galleria Noire, and event planner for the anniversary performance.
Honorary hosts of the celebration include Congressman Gregory Meeks; state Senators Leroy Comrie and James Sanders Jr.; Assemblywomen Vivian Cook, Barbara Clark and Michele Titus; and Councilmen I. Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards and Ruben Wills.
On Sept. 13, the Bartlett brothers will hold a jazz brunch at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.
“That particular function is the type of function that will give the people the chance to …network,” Charles Bartlett said. “Businesspeople will get a chance and sit down and we’ll break bread together and we can connect and network. That is a very powerful brunch that will take place on Sunday. It’s the opportunity to mix a little business with a lot of pleasure.”