[L to R] Larry Ridley, Patricia Greaves (waitstaff) and Roy Haynes at Lennie’s on the Turnpike, Salem MA, February 1964
(from the Salem State Archives on Flickr)
As you walk into the room, off to the left sits an innocuous looking Casio keyboard. A little further into the room sits a gentle giant whom I don’t recognize. Seats arranged in rows as if in a makeshift church that could just as easily be cleared out to allow for a speakeasy atmosphere with live music, dancing and carousing. We are in the “house” of Morgan, a shrine to Lee Morgan where jazz sermonizing can take place. The man with his hand resting on his lap is called forward to greet the faithful and pay tribute to the guest of honor, Jim Harrison. That thing against the wall, a box of plastic and electronics sits like a lifeless silhouette against the wall. Taking his seat at the keyboard, Harold Mabern apologizes for whatever surprises might emerge from this toy that bears no resemblance to that which he would normally work his magic. Only an artist with such a command of his craft could awaken the insides of the diminutive box with it’s plastic keys. Oh and what magic it turned out to be. Inside of a minute the Casio turned into a baby grand and the audience was curled around those giant fingers that coaxed improvised music out of the once lifeless silhouette. It could just as easily been a thumb piano, a church organ or Steinway, Mabern would have squeezed every drop of jazz and the blues out of it. Pure Magic.
The icing on the cake came afterward when Harold Mabern treated the audience to insights into the journey of a jazz musician. The highs, the lows, the camaraderie and the magic that musicians bring to their audiences and to themselves. Whereas some who write about Jazz would strip their subjects of all their complexity and humanity, Mabern assures us that the giants walking among us, now and then are and were, way more socially aware and complex. A good deal of that makes it’s way into the music. Next time you put on a record listen hard, maybe you will hear it, because to hear Harold Mabern tell it, it is definitely all in there.
(Larry Ridley listens to Harold Mabern set the record straight in the second photo)
Hank Mobley - Recado Bossa Nova
Bossa Nova with extra swagger!
Music Matters will be releasing the definitive version of the classic Jackie McLean album, ‘Destination…Out!’ on vinyl. Three of the four compositions were written by the under appreciated Grachan Moncur III. The LP will be available next month, and if I were a betting man, I would bet that this will go out of print quickly.
The album is a gem, and it showcases McLean moving away from hard bop, and towards the avant-garde. I wrote a brief blurb about it a few months ago. Check it out, and listen to the music. http://bit.ly/b1aaRJ