Howard McGhee

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Howard McGhee
Rochester, New York, 1976
Rochester, New York, 1976
Background information
Born(1918-03-06)March 6, 1918
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedJuly 17, 1987(1987-07-17) (aged 69)
New York City, New York

Howard McGhee (March 6, 1918 – July 17, 1987)[1] was one of the first American bebop jazz trumpeters, with Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro and Idrees Sulieman. He was known for his fast fingering and high notes. He had an influence on younger bebop trumpeters such as Fats Navarro.


Howard McGhee was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States, and raised in Detroit, Michigan.[2]

During his career, he played in bands led by Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, Count Basie and Charlie Barnet. He was in a club listening to the radio when he first heard Charlie Parker and was one of the earliest adopters of the new style, a fact that was disapproved by older musicians like Kid Ory.[citation needed]

Thelonious Monk and Howard McGhee, Minton's Playhouse, c. September 1947

In 1946–1947, some record sessions for the new label Dial were organized in Hollywood, with Charlie Parker and McGhee. The first was held on July 29, 1946. The musicians were Charlie Parker, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Bunn, Bob Kesterson, and Roy Porter. With Parker's health near to collapse, he played "Max is Making Wax", "Lover Man", and "The Gypsy".[3]

McGhee continued to work as a sideman with Parker.[2] He played on titles such as "Relaxin' at Camarillo", "Cheers", "Carvin the Bird" and "Stupendous". Around this time, McGhee was a leading musician in the Los Angeles bebop scene, participating in many concerts, recording, and even managing a night club for a period.[3] His stay in California ended because of racial prejudice, particularly vicious towards McGhee as half of a mixed-race couple.[4]

Drug problems sidelined McGhee for much of the 1950s, but he resurfaced in the 1960s, appearing in many George Wein productions.[2] His career sputtered again in the mid-1960s and he did not record again until 1976.[2] He led one of three big jazz bands trying to succeed in New York in the late 1960s. While the band did not survive, a recording was released in the mid-1970s.

He taught music through the 1970s, both in classrooms and at his apartment in midtown Manhattan and instructed musicians like Charlie Rouse in music theory.[citation needed] He was as much an accomplished composer-arranger as he was a performer.

McGhee died on July 17, 1987, at the age of 69, a memorial service was held for him on July 24, 1987.[1]


(From left) Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, Teddy Hill, Minton's Playhouse, New York City, c. September 1947

As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Lorez Alexandria

With Georgie Auld

With Billy Eckstine

  • Maggie: The Savoy Sessions (Savoy, 1947 [1995]) includes the infamous Eckstine/McGhee four song session, originally recorded in Chicago for Vitacoustic Records; personnel: Howard McGhee (tp), Billy Eckstine (vtb), Kenny Mann (ts), Hank Jones (p), Ray Brown (b), J.C. Heard (d), Marcel Daniels (v).

With Johnny Hartman

With Coleman Hawkins

With Chubby Jackson

  • Chubby Jackson All Star Big Band (1950)
  • Chubby Jackson Sextet and Big Band (Prestige, 1947–1950 [1969])

With James Moody

With André Previn

  • André Previn All-Stars (1946)
  • Previn at Sunset (Polydor, 1972)

With Mel Tormé

With others[edit]


  1. ^ a b Palmer, Robert (July 18, 1987). "Howard McGhee, 69, Is Dead; A Trumpeter and Composer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Howard McGhee | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Owens, Thomas (1996). Bebop. Los Angeles Berkeley: Oxford University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-19-510651-0.
  4. ^ Barron, Stephanie (2000). Reading California : art, image, and identity, 1900-2000. Los Angeles Berkeley: Los Angeles County Museum of Art University of California Press. ISBN 0520227670.
  5. ^ "Howard McGhee | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved July 24, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]