Category: Mabern Harold

Notations from Harold Mabern

haroldMabernPianist Harold Mabern is one of the underrated greats of the late 50s early 60s hard-bop era, playing and recording with the likes of Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Jackie McLean, and George Coleman. He has also had a prolific career as a leader, and has had a profound impact on many great musicians as an instructor and faculty member at William Paterson University and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Here is a transcript from a great interview with Deborah Demoss Smith at KMHD radio this past week. From the interview:

Do you agree with the idea that West Coast jazz is different than East Coast?
That’s not happening anymore. The West Coast sound is lighter in texture; the East Coast more grainy. But it’s not like that anymore because the coasts have caught up with each other. I was born in the South, where we had to play the blues, which we hated to play the blues; but now we realize that’s a blessing because everybody can’t play the blues. I’m still writing music and still learning music. Ahmad Jamal said the day you stop learning, you might as well go crawl in a hole. 

Click here to read Notations from Harold Mabern

—Peter Blasevick

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.”


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

Interview with Harold Mabern about playing with Wes Montgomery

haroldMabernHere is an interesting interview with the great Harold Mabern speaking about his time with Wes Montgomery during Wes’ 1965 tour and his famous “625 Alive” appearance on the BBC. Mabern had some great reflections in his time with Wes, including some insight into Wes’ practicing. Interview by Tim Fitzgerald:

TF: Have you heard that quote where Wes says something like, “I never practice my guitar. From time to time I just open the case and throw in a piece of raw meat?”
HM: Well, I think I heard that quote too, yeah. But no, he practiced. He had a sense of humor too, you know? But he was always practicing. I know for a fact he was always practicing. I’d go out and come by his room and hear him, and I wouldn’t disturb him. He put a lot of time on the instrument.

Mabern also spoke of what Wes was like as a bandleader:

HM:…He was not greedy at all. He was not greedy money-wise. He was not greedy musically speaking. He was a great, great human being. So that’s why when you see that tape, those things we did, that’s why the music probably sounds so good because everybody was on the same page trying to do the right thing, and it comes through the music…

Click here to read Interview with Harold Mabern about playing with Wes Montgomery

—Peter Blasevick