Harold Mabern Trio – Village Vanguard – August 26, 2018 –
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Harold Mabern (1936-2019) – With the sad news earlier this week of the passing of the much loved and admired Piano giant Harold Mabern, I thought it would only be fitting and proper to run one of his concerts as way of tribute to this remarkable artist and to be reminded of who we lost.
It’s been such a terrible year for loss of so many pivotal figures in so many walks of life that a week doesn’t go by where news flashes across a desktop or a friend tells you the bad news. And sometimes, especially these times, where so much chaos and uncertainty dominate our day-to-day lives, someone passes and we don’t immediately notice. Sadly, Jazz is not high on America’s collective radar – baffling though that is, it is a perplexing fact. So when a figure with the grace and stature of Harold Mabern leaves us suddenly, you would think it would be the lead story on most newscasts. But no, news of his passing comes through friends, associates, his Facebook page; people who know and love Jazz and who are devastated by the loss of yet another important figure in music.
This gig – recorded lovingly by a fan, at The Village Vanguard on August 26, 2018 features his trio: John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. It’s a gorgeous set, a little over 77 minutes. The room is emotionally warm and intimate and the audience is rapt. Oh, if all gigs could be like this . . .
In case you aren’t familiar, or just discovering the vast world of Jazz, radio station WBGO put together an obit that lays it all out – here’s a taste:
“Mabern had a strong yet supple attack at the piano, with a penchant for block chords that combined McCoy Tyner’s modal coloration with the ringing affirmations of the gospel church. His upbringing in Memphis, Tenn., was always present in his style, with unshakable rhythmic assurance and a casually profound connection to the blues.
Reviewing a quartet gig by tenor saxophonist George Coleman for The New York Times in 1986, John S. Wilson wrote that Mabern’s solos were “surging, dancing explosions of huge, hammered chords, slightly softened by the staggered, hanging rhythm that Erroll Garner used or trills that echo Earl Hines.”
For more than 60 years, Mabern was a Rock-of-Gibraltar presence in modern jazz, rising to the first rank of sidemen — with Coleman, guitarist Wes Montgomery, trumpeter Lee Morgan and myriad others — and building a substantial if often undervalued body of work himself.
He made his first album, A Few Miles From Memphis, for Prestige in 1968. Fifty years later, its title track was a featured highlight of his final album, The Iron Man: Live at Smoke. Released on Smoke Sessions, The Iron Man features tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth — younger musicians with whom he worked closely and often over the last quarter-century”.
You can catch the whole obit here (wbgo.org).
Sad loss, but grateful for the prodigious body of recordings he has left for fans-yet-to-be to discover and for the rest of us to be reminded.