Harold Mabern Jr. (1936 - 2019)

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Harold Mabern, Jr.
Harold Mabern, Jr. (born March 20, 1936, died September 19, 2019) was an American jazz pianist and composer, principally in the hard bop, post-bop, and soul jazz fields. He is described in The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings as "one of the great post-bop pianists".
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Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern (born March 20, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee) is a hard bop and soul jazz pianist.

Mabern was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee – a city that’s a capital of 20th century American music. Like fellow Memphis jazz artists George Coleman, Booker Little, and Frank Strozier, Mabern attended Manassas High School, and after an early attempt at playing the drums, he taught himself piano and fell under the spell of pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., an influence that would shape and linger with Mabern for the rest of his life.

Along with some other Memphis musicians, Mabern moved to Chicago in in 1954 where he soon found work backing up tenor sax players Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Clifford Jordon. He also gained further influence from studying with pianist Ahmad Jamal and played in the hardbop group MJT + 3, before going on to New York City in 1959. “Chicago gave me the stuff I needed—and the confidence,” he recalled in 1987. “New York refined my stuff and it’s still doing it.”

One of his earliest significant gigs was an 18-month stay with Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet. After the Jazztet disbanded, Mabern worked with Jimmy Forrest, Lionel Hampton, Donald Byrd and did a brief stint with Miles Davis in 1963. He worked with J.J. Johnson (1963-65), Lee Morgan(1965) and Hank Mobley- recording the album, Dippin’. Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Williams (1966-67) Mabern also played in a quartet with guitarist Wes Montgomery. Decades later Mabern praised the joyous quality of Montgomery’s playing and personality and told an interviewer:

The music was challenging. He’d just start playing. He’d say “Mabern, play this with me.” Now, if he had a specific thing he wanted me to play, like say maybe he wanted me to play a figure with him in unison, ok, and I’d pick it right up because of the fact that I’m self taught, always had to use my ears anyway… Then there’d be times when he’d say, “Mabern, you play this with me,” and it might be the harmony part to what he’s playing…whatever way, it was always a challenge. He always said, “Mabern, you’re a bad cat.” And I’d say, “Oh, I’m just trying to keep up with you.”

Between 1968-70, Mabern led four albums for Prestige, the first being A Few Miles From Memphis with a lineup that featured two saxophonists, one of them fellow Memphis native George Coleman. As the 1970s began, Harold Mabern became a key member of Lee Morgan’s working group and appeared on several live and studio recordings made by the trumpeter before his death in 1972.
In 1971, he played on Stanley Turrentine’s The Sugar Man and Don’t Mess With Mr. T. album in 1973. In 1972 he recorded with Stanley Cowell’s Piano Choir.
In more recent years, he has toured and recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. To date, Mabern and Alexander have appeared on over twenty CDs together. A longtime faculty member at William Paterson University since 1981, Mabern is also a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.
Harold Mabern has recorded as a leader for DIW/Columbia and Sackville and toured with the Contemporary Piano Ensemble (1993-1995).

Harold Mabern Jr. Biography & Family History

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Jazz Pianist


Harold Mabern (born March 20, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee) is a hard bop and soul jazz pianist.

Mabern was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee – a city that’s a capital of 20th century American music. Like fellow Memphis jazz artists George Coleman, Booker Little, and Frank Strozier, Mabern attended Manassas High School, and after an early attempt at playing the drums, he taught himself piano and fell under the spell of pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., an influence that would shape and linger with Mabern for the rest of his life.

Along with some other Memphis musicians, Mabern moved to Chicago in in 1954 where he soon found work backing up tenor sax players Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Clifford Jordon. He also gained further influence from studying with pianist Ahmad Jamal and played in the hardbop group MJT + 3, before going on to New York City in 1959. “Chicago gave me the stuff I needed—and the confidence,” he recalled in 1987. “New York refined my stuff and it’s still doing it.”
One of his earliest significant gigs was an 18-month stay with Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet. After the Jazztet disbanded, Mabern worked with Jimmy Forrest, Lionel Hampton, Donald Byrd and did a brief stint with Miles Davis in 1963. He worked with J.J. Johnson (1963-65), Lee Morgan(1965) and Hank Mobley- recording the album, Dippin’. Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Williams (1966-67) Mabern also played in a quartet with guitarist Wes Montgomery. Decades later Mabern praised the joyous quality of Montgomery’s playing and personality and told an interviewer:
The music was challenging. He’d just start playing. He’d say “Mabern, play this with me.” Now, if he had a specific thing he wanted me to play, like say maybe he wanted me to play a figure with him in unison, ok, and I’d pick it right up because of the fact that I’m self taught, always had to use my ears anyway… Then there’d be times when he’d say, “Mabern, you play this with me,” and it might be the harmony part to what he’s playing…whatever way, it was always a challenge. He always said, “Mabern, you’re a bad cat.” And I’d say, “Oh, I’m just trying to keep up with you.”
Between 1968-70, Mabern led four albums for Prestige, the first being A Few Miles From Memphis with a lineup that featured two saxophonists, one of them fellow Memphis native George Coleman. As the 1970s began, Harold Mabern became a key member of Lee Morgan’s working group and appeared on several live and studio recordings made by the trumpeter before his death in 1972.
In 1971, he played on Stanley Turrentine’s The Sugar Man and Don’t Mess With Mr. T. album in 1973. In 1972 he recorded with Stanley Cowell’s Piano Choir.
In more recent years, he has toured and recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. To date, Mabern and Alexander have appeared on over twenty CDs together. A longtime faculty member at William Paterson University since 1981, Mabern is also a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.
Harold Mabern has recorded as a leader for DIW/Columbia and Sackville and toured with the Contemporary Piano Ensemble (1993-1995).

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Timeline

1936 - In the year that Harold Mabern Jr. was born, on November 2nd, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) debuted the world's first regular high-definition television service. The channel had a short schedule - Monday through Saturday, 3:00p to 4:00p and 9:00p to 10:00p. The first broadcast was "Opening of the BBC Television Service".

1941 - He was only 5 years old when in his State of the Union address on January 6th, President Roosevelt detailed the "four freedoms" that everyone in the world should have: Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, and Freedom from fear. In the same speech, he outlined the benefits of democracy which he said were economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of "adequate health care".

1963 - When he was 27 years old, on November 22nd, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became the 36th President of the United States when President John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Johnson was sworn in on the plane carrying Kennedy's body back to Washington D.C.

1992 - At the age of 56 years old, Harold was alive when on April 29th, riots began in Los Angeles after the "Rodney King" verdict was issued. Four LAPD officers had been accused of using excessive force (assault) on African-American Rodney King, who had been stopped for drunk driving. The beating had been videotaped. Their acquittal sparked a 6 day riot in Los Angeles.

1997 - When he was 61 years old, on July 1st, Hong Kong was returned to China. In 1898, Great Britain was awarded Hong Kong for 99 years. In a subsequent agreement, China agreed to allow Hong Kong to remain capitalist. So the handing over of the area ended British rule but did not change the economic system of Hong Kong.

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Memphis jazz great Harold Mabern has died
John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial AppealPublished 6:22 p.m. CT Sept. 19, 2019 | Updated 7:26 p.m. CT Sept. 19, 2019
Memphis jazz great Harold Mabern, a product of the city's fertile high school music scene who became a master of soulful "post-bop" piano, has died. He was 83.
He was known for playing with such legends as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.
Mabern's death was announced Thursday by his current record label, Smoke Sessions Records, based in New York, where Mabern lived much of his adult life. A cause of death was not announced.
Attending Douglass and then Manassas High School (which was famed for its music program), Mabern belonged to an unparalleled generation of Memphis jazz musicians that came of age in the 1950s. That generation included pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., trumpet player Booker Little and saxophonists George Coleman, Frank Strozier and Hank Crawford in its ranks.
Although Mabern studied music at a Chicago conservatory, "I say that I got my knowledge from the university of the streets," he told the Knoxville News Sentinel in a 2012 interview. "You don't have to go to school to learn how to play this music."
After moving to New York, Mabern toured and played with some of jazz's most significant vocalists and instrumental and compositional innovators, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery and Sarah Vaughan.
He paid tribute to his roots with his first album as a band leader — 1968's "A Few Miles from Memphis" — where he was joined by fellow Memphian George Coleman. Another 20-plus albums as a leader followed over the next five decades, including a 1995 tribute to Newborn, "For Phineas," and 1970's "Greasy Kid Stuff!" which showed the influence of funk and fusion music.
In a review of Mabern's 1978 album "Pisces Calling," Marc Myers, author of "Why Jazz Happened," wrote: "Mabern's fingering is commanding and lyrical. His chords aren't merely played but hurled like fistfuls of darts, and there's an urgent snap to his delivery."
In the 1990s, he joined a younger generation of Memphis jazz pianists -- including James Williams, Mulgrew Miller and Donald Brown -- for a series of albums and tours while billed as "The Contemporary Piano Ensemble."
Mabern, also taught music at New Jersey's William Paterson University for 36 years, influencing several generations of students and players. "I don't consider myself a teacher," Mabern told the News Sentinel. "I'm an advanced student. You never stop learning. If you stop learning, you might as well go crawl in a hole somewhere."
He performed several times in recent years in his hometown and had been scheduled to appear again locally in January at the Germantown Performing Arts Center.
Mabern made what would be his final appearance in Memphis in April of 2018, where he performed and was honored by Rhodes College’s Mike Curb Institute for Music. He was presented with a Beale Street Brass Note by Curb Institute director and longtime friend John Bass.
“I’m not sure if there is a musician who epitomized or represented Memphis better than Harold Mabern," said Bass. "His playing stretched the boundaries of music, but he always just described himself as a blues man."
“He shared his knowledge and stories with so many people, and I’m grateful that he shared some of them with me," said Bass. "I’ll never forget seeing grand pianos literally shake under his fingers, or his laugh, and I’ll miss him.”

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