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1/22/12

Howard McGhee 1961



As far as recording activity is concerned, 1961 was a productive year for me. Trips to New Orleans and Chicago resulted in several Riverside albums (the "Living Legends" series) and I produced a number of Prestige albums at Rudy Van Gelder's New Jersey studio. In New York, there were sessions with Meade Lux Lewis, Ida Cox and Elmer Snowden, and I ventured out on my own with a one-man production company that yielded four albums, but no income. Had I made money on this, I would have been long gone by now, but the music is still there and possibly to be found on the Fontana or Black Lion labels, but only if you rummage deep enough.

I started that venture with a Howard McGhee date. He was rehabilitating himself at the time and had been off the scene for far too long, but—as you will hear on the sample that now is but a click away, Howard still had it going. He was beginning to get work, and was with Duke Ellington at the time when I contacted him, but great as that looks on a resume, it was possible to play with Duke and never have the spotlight hit you. Many promoters were wary of hiring serious drug addicts, even if they were recovering, and Howard sometimes found himself regarded as a great player gone good, a sideman with name recognition. He liked my suggestion that we should change that image, so my solo walk was off to a good start. Howard knew exactly what he wanted to do and who he wanted involved, so he got together a stellar group. I will, from time to time, post selections from this and other of my own sessions, because I know that these recordings—although actually issued—are not easy to find. Unfortunately, I could not afford a studio whose sound was commensurate with these performances, but Stea-Phillips—located off the lobby of the Wellington Hotel on Seventh Avenue—did a decent job. Here is Howard's own composition, "Sharp Edge," which he had originally titled "Mag-San."  Let me know what you think. 


For a larger view of this post's heading, please click on it.

14 comments:

  1. So swinging! I really envy you your immersion in the jazz scene of those days, when the music existed in, and was the product of a community. And to be around and work with all those great musicians..wow. Thanks very much for sharing this Chris!

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    1. Thank you, Ronan. It was indeed a great time to be on the scene and I wish I had not taken it as much for granted as I did. One just doesn't think that such wonderful thing are going to end without a comparable extension—but it did, in a way. I met and became a friend of many wonderful, creative people, and I am grateful for that.

      I will be posting more from the McGhee date and other sessions.

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  2. Yes - a fantastic session. I have it on a Dutch Fontana LP.

    What were the other records you produced in this series, Chris?

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    1. A Cliff Jackson solo album (see previous post), a Bud Freeman Quartet session with pianist Dave Frishberg (his first commercial session), Bob Haggart, bass, and Don Lamond, drums. The fourth album was an Elmer Snowden Sextet date with him on guitar, Roy Eldridge, Freeman, Ray Bryant, Tommy Bryant, and Jo Jones. A background vocal chorus included John Hammond and Dan Morgenstern.

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  3. For me, the clarity of ideas in Howard's playing is the main thing. I discovered him by "The Return of H. M.," and since then I've enjoyed listening to any recordings made by him, including this treasure that you've produced, dear Chris.

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    1. Thank you, Ehsan. Howard was indeed a remarkable musician and I feel privileged to have had an opportunity to work with him.

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  4. Thanks for the spotlite on my pop. He didn't get the recognition he deserved

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    1. That's an understatement, Boots. I can add that Howard was also a delight to be with. Miles spoke very highly of him and, in fact gave him the trumpet he used on our session—it was green and he made it gold. Thank you for visiting my blog—keep snapping those photos!

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    2. Its a joy to hear stories of what a good player he was but equally as cool to hear what a good guy he was. My collection just expanded w/your blog

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  5. Mr. Albertson, Im so glad I discoverd your blog. Amazing subjects about artists I adore! I'll be following your writings closely.

    I'm unable to send you an email, since yours isnt listed. I'm a Documentary film maker from Memphis TN and am in pre-production on a Documentary on whom I consider the greatest (and oft overlooked) jazz singer ever, Miss Bessie Smith.

    I was hoping to speak with you about my project if you had time. I'll leave you my email address and hope to hear from you. Thank you!

    -Chuck K., Memphis Tn

    charitychuck@hotmail.com

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  6. Thorbjørn SjøgrenJanuary 30, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    Howard McGhee was an excellent trumpet player, and he seemed to improve with age. He played in Copenhagen in (I think) 1976 with (a.o.) Kenny Clarke and turned out to be a very nice person to be around. He also recorded here, as well as for my friend Lars Johansen's shortlived JazzCraft label, both with Benny Bailey and Teddy Edwards. Luckily, most of this stuff is now available on the Storyville label. It's always good to be reminded of the great players of the past (not only for older people like myself - I think many young(er) jazz fans are not particularly aware of hin).
    Your blog is both informative and entertaining, often at the same time, which is no small thing. Thanks very much.

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  7. Thank you for visiting my blog, Thorbjørn. I am always happy to see that I have reached someone from the old country—after all, it was in København that it all started for me. Every time I hear Jelly Roll's "Oh, Didn't He Ramble" it brings back fond memories of DR's Jazzklubben (it was their theme). Som vi siger på dansk, jeg bliver grebet af hjemve.

    By the way, I am starting another blog that will be devoted to my family papers. It will include a diary kept by my great great grandfather, C. A. Broberg, in 1834, when he traveled from Copenhagen to Sicily. It will all be in Danish so I haven't yet figured out how to get the word out in Denmark. Any suggestions?

    Howard was a delightful person to be around and work with.

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    1. Thorbjørn SjøgrenJanuary 31, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      "Didn't He Ramble" Jazzklubben's theme song, goes, I think, a little bit further back than I can remember. I seem to recall the Mulligan / Baker short version of "Utter Chaos" (approx.1955-56, when I was ten years and starting to listen to jazz - my first 78 was Armstrong's Basin Street Blues (1928) - a good place to start. If you disclose your great-great-grandfather's (tipoldefar) line of work, I'll se if I can find an organisation that might be relevant (a Historical Society or something like that). Another idea would be to get in touch with a couple of the leading Danish dailies, Politiken and Berlingske Tidende.
      I worked for Politiken for ten years, doing jazz reviews and interviews. I'd suggest that you mail the editor of culture: anita.b.bundegaard@pol.dk and see if she can pass it on to the most relevant colleague.

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