Harold Mabern - Jazz Profiles

Sunday, October 27, 2019 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Sid Gribetz presents a memorial tribute to Harold Mabern this Sunday, October 27, 2019, from 2-5 PM for “Jazz Profiles”, on WKCR radio. The well-respected and legendary pianist passed away last month at the age of 83, leaving behind a lasting legacy of both his intense musical creativity, and his impact on the jazz community as a mentor and teacher.

Mabern was born March 20, 1936 in Memphis and raised in that Southern town, surrounded by many great young jazz players in his school. Mabern’s own mentor and friend, only a couple of years older, was Phineas Newborn. His schoolmates and lifelong associates included Frank Strozier, George Coleman, and Booker Little.

Shaped by the indigenous rhythm and blues and southern soul, this cadre of Memphis musicians brought these influences as another hard driving layer to the vocabulary of modern jazz of the 1950's and 1960's.

Mabern moved to Chicago after high school for formal musical training, and with Strozier helped form the group the MJT + 3. Later, arriving first in the New York, and then the national jazz scene in the 1960's, Mabern was an important contributor to groups led by Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery, The Jazztet, and (briefly with Coleman) Miles Davis. By the end of the decade Mabern was signed to feature his own records on Prestige, and in addition he served as a sideman on many influential records by Roland Kirk, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard, to name a few, and so many more.

Moving along in his career, Harold settled in the Brooklyn jazz community. Mabern never sought much fame, but for decades he was an important presence in New York nightclubs and piano rooms, and a leading figure to younger Memphis-ites such as James Williams and Mulgrew Miller. He furthered his influence by teaching at the respected William Paterson College Jazz Program and giving less formal lessons through the years, to even younger generations of jazz musicians such as Joe Farnsworth and Eric Alexander.

Mabern had a highly percussive and driving, swinging attack at the piano, combined with a romantic, sensitive side, that lent great effect to many groups. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of both the American popular songbook and classic soul music tunes as well, which he brought to bear on the lyrical and energetic aspects of his performance style.

We’ll feature his music for three hours on Sunday to say farewell.