Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: Getting Schooled

Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander have recorded 12 albums together—In this 2006 interview with Andrew Gilbert from JazzTimes, Mabern says it was already one of the longest collaborations of his career, and that was 8 years ago—and they’ve creates some of the great modern-day straight ahead jazz there is. Though initially it was a ‘taking the young cat under his wing’ type of situation, as Mabern had taught Alexander at William Paterson University, it quickly became a mutually beneficial partnership. From the interview:

haroldMabern“He’s given me so much leeway,” Mabern says. “On most of the records we’ve made, a lot of the songs on there were arranged and conceived by me as far as the introductions. We both feel the same way about the music. I always give him good obscure tunes that have been slighted. Like on this latest record, It’s All in the Game, there’s a tune ‘Bye Bye Baby’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Carol Channing that got by Coltrane, Johnny Griffin and George Coleman. It would have been made to order for them.”

ericAlexander

Photo by Sheldon Levy

“He’ll give you everything he’s got. That’s what really draws me to him,” says Alexander, 38. “A lot of people can’t deal with that. It’s too strong for them. And on occasion it’s been too strong for me, because he’ll come up with some stuff on the spur of the moment that might not be what you’re thinking of playing. You either have to have the ability to just roll over it, and not go with him and be confident about what you’re doing, or be able to go with him. If you can’t do either, you just get stopped in your tracks.”

Click here to read Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: Getting Schooled

—Peter Blasevick