Howard McGhee

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Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee 1976.jpg
Rochester, New York, 1976
Background information
Born (1918-03-06)March 6, 1918
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died July 17, 1987(1987-07-17) (aged 69)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trumpet
Labels Dial
Associated acts Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, Count Basie

Howard McGhee (March 6, 1918 – July 17, 1987) was one of the first bebop jazz trumpeters, with Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro and Idrees Sulieman. He was known for his fast fingers and very high notes. What is generally not known is the influence that he had on younger hard bop trumpeters, with Fats Navarro.


Howard McGhee was raised in Detroit, Michigan. 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 Parker and was one of the early 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 1946–47, some record sessions for the new label Dial were organized at Hollywood with Charlie Parker and the Howard McGhee combo. The first was held on July 29, 1946. The musicians were Charlie Parker (as), Howard McGhee (tp), Jimmy Bunn (p), Bob Kesterson (b), and Roy Porter (d).[clarification needed] The titles played were "Max is Making Wax", "Lover Man", "The Gypsy" and "Be-bop".

McGhee continued to work as a sideman for Parker. He played on titles like "Relaxin' at Camarillo", "Cheers", "Carvin the Bird" and "Stupendous". His stay in California was cut short because of racial prejudice, particularly vicious towards McGhee as half of a mixed-race couple.[1]

Drug problems sidelined McGhee for much of the 1950s, but he resurfaced in the 1960s, appearing in many George Wein productions. His career sputtered again in the mid-1960s and he did not record again until 1976. 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.


(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 Dexter Gordon

With Johnny Hartman

With James Moody

With Don Patterson

With Joe Williams


  1. ^ 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. 

Further reading[edit]

DeVeaux, Scott (1997). The birth of bebop : a social and musical history. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520216655. 

External links[edit]