Harold Mabern

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Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern.jpg
Mabern in 2012
Background information
Birth name Harold Mabern, Jr.
Born (1936-03-20) March 20, 1936 (age 78)
Memphis, Tennessee
Genres Hard bop, post-bop, soul jazz
Occupations Musician, composer
Instruments Piano
Years active Mid-1950s–present

Harold Mabern (born March 20, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee) is a hard bop, post-bop and soul jazz pianist and composer.[1] He is described in The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings as "one of the great post-bop pianists".[2]

Early life[edit]

Mabern initially started learning drums, before switching to piano.[1] He attended Douglass High School,[3] before transferring to Manassas High School;[4] he played with Frank Strozier, George Coleman and Booker Little at this time, but was most influenced by pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.[5] In 1954, after graduating, Mabern moved to Chicago,[5] where, unable to afford to attend music college because of a change in his parents' financial circumstances, he developed by listening to Ahmad Jamal and others in clubs,[6] but remained self-taught as a pianist.[3] Mabern went on to play with Walter Perkins' MJT + 3 and others in Chicago.[7]

1959–1967[edit]

Mabern moved to New York in 1959. According to his own account, he moved there with saxophonist Frank Strozier on November 21, 1959, checked in at a hotel and then went to Birdland, where he met Cannonball Adderley, who asked him if he wanted a gig. Mabern accepted, and was shown inside, where trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, who was looking for a pianist to replace the soon-to-depart Tommy Flanagan, auditioned him and offered him the place.[5] A few weeks later, most of the members of this band then joined Jimmy Forrest for a recording in Chicago that resulted in the albums All the Gin Is Gone and Black Forrest, which were also the debut recordings for guitarist Grant Green.[8][9]

Mabern steadily built a reputation in New York as a sideman, playing with, among others, Lionel Hampton's big band in 1960 (including a tour of Europe),[10] the Jazztet for 18 months in the period 1961–62, accompanied vocalists including Betty Carter, Johnny Hartman and Arthur Prysock, and worked with trumpeter Donald Byrd and drummer Roy Haynes.[5][10] After completing a 1963 tour with Haynes, he had a six-week engagement at the Black Hawk in San Francisco with Miles Davis.[4][5] Mabern went on to spend time with J. J. Johnson in 1963–65 after being briefly with Sonny Rollins.[10] In 1965 he also played with Lee Morgan, an association that continued on and off until the night in February 1972 that Morgan was shot dead at Slug's Saloon, with Mabern present.[3] Mabern toured in Europe with Wes Montgomery later in 1965 as part of a band that had been together for around two years before the European tour, traveling as a quartet from gig to gig in one car.[11] From 1965, Mabern also worked with Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell (1966), Sarah Vaughan, and Joe Williams (1966–67).[7][10]

1968–present[edit]

Mabern's recording career as a leader began in 1968, after he signed for Prestige Records early that year.[12] His first album, A Few Miles from Memphis, featured several of his own originals.[4] Further dates for Prestige were released, and Mabern has gone on to record approximately 20 albums as leader, for a variety of labels. Mabern has worked intermittently over a period of four decades with George Coleman, beginning in the 1960s, and including an appearance at the 1976 Newport Jazz Festival.[13][14] From the early 1970s, he worked with trumpeters Clark Terry and Joe Newman, played jazz-pop electric piano with George Benson and Stanley Turrentine, was part of drummer Walter Bolden's trio (1973–74), and led his own trio with Bolden and bassist Jamil Nasser.[10]

Among other musicians Mabern played with from this period were Milt Jackson in 1977,[15] and Billy Harper for a tour of Japan in the same year.[16] Four years later, Mabern toured Europe with George Coleman,[16] and played with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.[17] The following year, Mabern played with James Moody.[18] There have also been performances and recordings with innumerable other musicians, both as leader and sideman. Mabern has also worked with two piano-based groups: the Piano Choir, formed and led by Stanley Cowell from the early 1970s and featuring at least six pianists/keyboardists, and the four-player Contemporary Piano Ensemble, the latter being formed in the early 1990s to pay tribute to Phineas Newborn, Jr. and touring extensively, including at the Montreal (1991) and Monterey Jazz Festivals (1996).[5][19] He also went to Japan in 1990 as a member of a ten-pianist group that toured together but played and recorded separately.[20] In the mid-1990s, Mabern toured with and led a trio of bassist Erik Applegate and drummer Ed Thigpen.[10] In later years, he recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.[21] In 2010, Mabern received the Don Redman Heritage Award.[22]

Mabern's popularity in Japan was reflected in his signing for the Japanese label Venus, which has resulted in six albums from 2002; Mabern stated in 2004 that his 2002 recording for Venus, Kiss of Fire, featuring Alexander as a guest, was his best seller.[5] A longtime faculty member at William Paterson University (from the early 1980s),[23] Mabern is a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Mabern's stated piano preference is "naturally the Steinway D, but if you can't get a D, any Steinway".[5]

Playing style[edit]

Mabern's piano style has been described as being "aggressive, very positive, crashing out chords that drop like pile drivers and warming up and down the keyboard with huge, whooping bursts of action", while, at the same time, he shows "a keen sensitivity" as "an extremely perceptive accompanist".[24] Critic Gary Giddins has identified some of the characteristics of Mabern's playing as being "blues glisses, [...] tremolos and dissonant block chords", that help to create a style "that marries McCoy Tyner's clustering modality with rippling asides that stem from [Art] Tatum".[25] The influence of Phineas Newborn, Jr. remains noticeable: Mabern employs Newborn's "manner of playing fast lines in a two-handed octave (or two-octave) unison, and uses this device in wildly imaginative ways".[10]

Discography[edit]

Years refer to the date of recording, unless an asterisk (*) is next to the year; this indicates that it is the date of initial release.

As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1968 A Few Miles from Memphis Prestige Mabern's first release as leader
1968 Rakin' and Scrapin' Prestige Mabern also plays electric piano
1969 Workin' & Wailin' Prestige Mabern also plays electric piano
1970 Greasy Kid Stuff! Prestige Sextet, with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hubert Laws (flute, tenor sax), Buster Williams (bass), Idris Muhammad (drums), Joe Jones (guitar; 1 track)
1978 Pisces Calling InterPlay Trio, with Jamil Nasser (bass), Walter Bolden (drums)
1984–85 Joy Spring Sackville Solo piano; in concert
1989 Straight Street DIW Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
1991–92 Philadelphia Bound Sackville Duo, with Kieran Overs (bass)
1993 Lookin' on the Bright Side DIW Trio, with Christian McBride (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
1995 For Phineas Sackville Duo, with Geoff Keezer (piano); in concert
1992–93 The Leading Man Disk Union Trio, with Christian McBride & Ron Carter (bass; separately), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
1996 Mabern's Grooveyard DIW Trio, with Tony Reedus (drums)
1999 Maya with Love DIW Trio, with Christian McBride (bass), Tony Reedus (drums)
2001 Kiss of Fire Venus Trio, with Nat Reeves (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums); Eric Alexander as guest
2003 Falling in Love with Love Venus Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)
2003 Don't Know Why Venus Trio, with Nat Reeves (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)
2004 Fantasy Venus Trio, with Dwayne Burno (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)
2005 Somewhere over the Rainbow Venus Trio, with Dwayne Burno (bass), Willie Jones III (drums)
2006 Misty Venus Solo piano
2012 Mr. Lucky HighNote Quartet, with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)
2012 Live at Smalls SmallsLive Trio, with John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums); in concert
2013 Right on Time Smoke Sessions Trio, with John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums); in concert

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1997 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Mode for Mabes Delmark
1999 Alexander, EricEric Alexander The First Milestone Milestone
2000 Alexander, EricEric Alexander The Second Milestone Milestone
2001 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Summit Meeting Milestone
2002 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Nightlife in Tokyo Milestone
2004 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Dead Center HighNote
2005 Alexander, EricEric Alexander It's All in the Game HighNote
1999 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Live at the Keynote Video Arts
2009 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Revival of the Fittest HighNote
2009 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Chim Chim Cheree Venus
2010 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Don't Follow the Crowd HighNote
2012 Alexander, EricEric Alexander Touching HighNote
1970 Ammons, GeneGene Ammons The Black Cat! Prestige
1973 Benson, GeorgeGeorge Benson Body Talk CTI
1978 Bolden, WaltWalt Bolden Walt Bolden Nemperor
1993 Brown, DonaldDonald Brown Cartunes Muse
1964 Carter, BettyBetty Carter Inside Betty Carter United Artistis
1978 Cole, RichieRichie Cole Keeper of the Flame Muse
1985* Coleman, GeorgeGeorge Coleman Manhattan Panorama Theresa
1987 Coleman, GeorgeGeorge Coleman At Yoshi's Theresa
1998 Coleman, GeorgeGeorge Coleman I Could Write a Book: The Music of Richard Rogers Telarc
1989 Contemporary Piano Ensemble, Contemporary Piano Ensemble Four Pianos for Phineas Evidence
1993 Contemporary Piano Ensemble, Contemporary Piano Ensemble The Key Players Sony
1997 Davis, SteveSteve Davis Crossfire Criss Cross
2006 DiRubbo, MikeMike DiRubbo New York Accent Cellar Live
1961 Farmer, ArtArt Farmer Perception Argo
1974 Foster, FrankFrank Foster The Loud Minority Mainstream
1976 Foster, FrankFrank Foster Here and Now Catalyst
1962 Jazztet, TheThe Jazztet Here and Now Mercury
1962 Jazztet, TheThe Jazztet Another Git Together Mercury
2004* Farnsworth, JoeJoe Farnsworth It's Prime Time Village
2011 Farnsworth, JoeJoe Farnsworth Super Prime Time Sony
1959 Forrest, JimmyJimmy Forrest All the Gin Is Gone Delmark
1959 Forrest, JimmyJimmy Forrest Black Forrest Delmark
1974* Freeman, GeorgeGeorge Freeman Man & Woman Groove Merchant
1996 Goodrich, AndyAndy Goodrich Motherless Child Delmark
1977 Harper, BillyBilly Harper Soran-Bushi, B.H. Denon
1979* Hayes, LouisLouis Hayes Variety Is the Spice Gryphon
1963 Heath, JimmyJimmy Heath Swamp Seed Riverside
1970 Hino, TerumasaTerumasa Hino Alone Together Columbia
2000 Hino, TerumasaTerumasa Hino Into the Heaven Columbia
1965 Hubbard, FreddieFreddie Hubbard The Night of the Cookers Blue Note
1965 Hubbard, FreddieFreddie Hubbard Blue Spirits Blue Note
1990 100 Gold Fingers, 100 Gold Fingers Piano Playhouse 1990 Absord Music Japan
1964 Johnson, J.J.J.J. Johnson Proof Positive Impulse!
1968 Jones, JoeJoe Jones My Fire! Prestige
1990 Keel, LewisLewis Keel Coming out Swinging Muse
1963 Kirk, RolandRoland Kirk Reeds & Deeds Mercury
1963 Kirk, RolandRoland Kirk The Roland Kirk Quartet Meets the Benny Golson Orchestra Mercury
1965 McLean, JackieJackie McLean Consequence Blue Note
1966 Mitchell, BlueBlue Mitchell Bring It Home to Me Blue Note
1965 Mobley, HankHank Mobley Dippin' Blue Note
1965 Morgan, LeeLee Morgan The Gigolo Blue Note
1970 Morgan, LeeLee Morgan Live at the Lighthouse Blue Note
1971 Morgan, LeeLee Morgan The Last Session Blue Note
1970 Muhammad, IdrisIdris Muhammad Black Rhythm Revolution! Prestige
2004 Otter, NedNed Otter Powder Keg Two & Four
1993 Payne, CecilCecil Payne Cerupa Delmark
1996 Payne, CecilCecil Payne Scotch and Milk Delmark
1998 Payne, CecilCecil Payne Payne's Window Delmark
2000 Payne, CecilCecil Payne Chic Boom Live at the Jazz Showcase Delmark
1973 Piano Choir, TheThe Piano Choir Handscapes Strata-East
1975 Piano Choir, TheThe Piano Choir Handscapes 2 Strata-East
1997 Rotondi, JimJim Rotondi Jim's Bop Criss Cross
2003 Shepp, ArchieArchie Shepp Deja Vu Venus
1978 Smith, LouisLouis Smith Just Friends SteepleChase
1960 Strozier, FrankFrank Strozier MJT + 3 Vee-Jay
1962 Strozier, FrankFrank Strozier March of the Siamese Children Jazzland
1976 Strozier, FrankFrank Strozier Remember Me Steeplechase
1977 Strozier, FrankFrank Strozier What's Goin' On Steeplechase
1967 Terry, BuddyBuddy Terry Electric Soul! Prestige
1971 Turrentine, StanleyStanley Turrentine The Sugar Man CTI
1973 Turrentine, StanleyStanley Turrentine Don't Mess with Mister T. CTI
1983 Willhite, LeeLee Willhite First Venture Big Tampa
1965 Montgomery, WesWes Montgomery Kings of the Guitar Beppo
1965 Montgomery, WesWes Montgomery Jazz 625 Vap
1965 Montgomery, WesWes Montgomery Solitude BYG
1965 Montgomery, WesWes Montgomery Belgium 1965 Rounder Vestapool

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. p. 425. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). p. 1136. Penguin.
  3. ^ a b c Jonah Jonathan's video interview with Harold Mabern.
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, David Brent (March 18, 2011) "A Few Miles from Memphis: Harold Mabern, the Early Years". Indiana Public Media.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Shanley, Mike (April 2003) "Harold Mabern: The Accompanist". Jazz Times.
  6. ^ Gilbert, Andrew (December 2006) "Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: Getting Schooled". Jazz Times.
  7. ^ a b MJT + 3 at allmusic
  8. ^ Yanow, Scott "Jimmy Forrest: All the Gin Is Gone: Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "Grant Green Catalog". Jazzdisco.org Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Rinzler, Paul; Kernfeld, Barry "Mabern, Harold(, Jr.)". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed June 28, 2013. (Subscription required.)
  11. ^ Fitzgerald, Tim "625 Alive: The Wes Montgomery BBC Performance Transcribed" pp. vii–ix.
  12. ^ Billboard (April 06, 1968) "Signings". Billboard. p. 14.
  13. ^ Balliett, Whitney (2000) Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz, 1954–2000. p. 473. Granta Books.
  14. ^ Friedwald, Will (August 13, 2010) "August Sounds Embrace the Sweltering City" Wall Street Journal [online edition].
  15. ^ Ford, Robert (March 26, 1977) "Talent in Action" Billboard.
  16. ^ a b Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestly, Brian (1995) Jazz: The Rough Guide. p. 398. The Rough Guides.
  17. ^ Wilson, John S. (August 08, 1981) "Jazz 4: Eddie Vinson" The New York Times. p. 28.
  18. ^ Stokes, W. Royal (May 15, 1982) "Moody's Sizzling Saxophone & Flute". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ Contemporary Piano Ensemble". AllMusic.
  20. ^ "100 Gold Fingers: Piano Playhouse 1990". AllMusic.
  21. ^ All About Jazz: Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: The Art of Duo (May 4, 2005).
  22. ^ Arnold, Tiffany (June 24, 2010) "Jazz Giants to Be Recognized at Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert". herald-mail.com
  23. ^ Ross, Jon (October 2012) "William Paterson University: 40 Years of Trailblazing Jazz Education". Down Beat. p. 134.
  24. ^ Wilson, John S. (March 03, 1977) "Jazz: Quartet with Keen Pianist". The New York Times. p. 29.
  25. ^ Giddins, Gary (January 20, 1998) "Beale Street Talks". The Village Voice.

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