“Though elder statesman Harold Mabern’s blocky, aggressive piano style may seem better suited to the small army of horn players he’s worked with—from Miles, Ornette and Freddie Hubbard to George Coleman and Eric Alexander—it’s worth remembering that Mabern’s early career also placed him with Betty Carter, Johnny Hartman, Sarah Vaughan and Joe Williams.” ...Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times
Harold Mabern, one of jazz’s most enduring and dazzlingly skilled pianists was born in Memphis, Tennesee. He is described in The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings as “one of the great post-bop (and soul jazz) pianists”. An undisputed jazz master, Mabern has over 20 albums as a leader, and has played and recorded over a half-century on the scene with jazz legends like Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell, Jackie McLean, J.J. Johnson, Betty Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Sarah Vaughn, George Coleman, Louis Hayes, George Benson, Clark Terry, James Moody and more recently with a host of younger ‘lions’ such as Eric Alexander, Mike DiRubbo, Joe Farnsworth, Steve Davis, Jim Rotondi and Norah Jones.
Pianist HAROLD MABERN has led a storied life. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he initially started learning drums, before switching to piano. He had access to a piano from his teens, after his father, who worked in a lumber yard, saved to buy him one. Mabern learned by watching and emulating pianists Charles Thomas and Phineas Newborn, Jr. Mabern attended Douglass High School, before transferring to Manassas High School; he played with Frank Strozier, George Coleman and Booker Little at this time, but was most influenced by pianist Newborn, Jr. In 1954, after graduating, Mabern moved to Chicago, intending to attend the American Conservatory of Music. He was unable to afford to attend music college because of a change in his parents’ financial circumstances, but had private lessons there for six months and developed his reading ability by playing with trombonist Morris Ellis’ big band. He also developed by listening to Ahmad Jamal and others in clubs, and “playing and practicing 12 hours a day” for the next five years, but he remained self-taught as a pianist. Mabern went on to play with Walter Perkins’ MJT + 3 and others in Chicago.
Mabern learned orchestration techniques from Bill Lee, and comping and chord voicing from pianists Chris Anderson and Billy Wallace.
Mabern moved to New York in 1959. According to his own account, he moved there with saxophonist Frank Strozier on November 21, 1959, checked in at a hotel and then went to Birdland, where he met Cannonball Adderley, who asked him if he wanted a gig. Mabern accepted, and was shown inside, where trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, who was looking for a pianist to replace the soon-to-depart Tommy Flanagan, auditioned him and offered him the place. A few weeks later, most of the members of this band then joined Jimmy Forrest for a recording in Chicago that resulted in the albums All the Gin Is Gone and Black Forrest, which were also the debut recordings for guitarist Grant Green.
Mabern steadily built a reputation in New York as a sideman, playing with, among others, Lionel Hampton’s big band in 1960 (including a tour of Europe), the Jazztet for 18 months in the period 1961–62, accompanied vocalists including Betty Carter, Johnny Hartman and Arthur Prysock, and worked with trumpeter Donald Byrd and drummer Roy Haynes. After completing a 1963 tour with Haynes, he had a six-week engagement at the Black Hawk in San Francisco with Miles Davis. Mabern went on to spend time with J. J. Johnson in 1963–65 after being briefly with Sonny Rollins. In 1965 he also played with Lee Morgan, an association that continued on and off until the night in February 1972 that Morgan was shot dead at Slug’s Saloon, with Mabern present. Mabern toured in Europe with Wes Montgomery later in 1965 as part of a band that had been together for around two years before the European tour, traveling as a quartet from gig to gig in one car. From 1965, Mabern also worked with Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell (1966), Sarah Vaughan, and Joe Williams (1966–67).
Mabern’s recording career as a leader began in 1968, after he signed for Prestige Records early that year. His first album, A Few Miles from Memphis, featured several of his own originals. Further dates for Prestige were released, and Mabern has gone on to record approximately 20 albums as leader, for a variety of labels. Mabern has worked intermittently over a period of four decades with George Coleman, beginning in the 1960s, and including an appearance at the 1976 Newport Jazz Festival. From the early 1970s, he worked with trumpeters Clark Terry and Joe Newman, played jazz-pop electric piano with George Benson and Stanley Turrentine, was part of drummer Walter Bolden’s trio (1973–74), and led his own trio with Bolden and bassist Jamil Nasser.
Among other musicians Mabern played with from this period were Milt Jackson in 1977, and Billy Harper for a tour of Japan in the same year. Four years later, Mabern toured Europe with George Coleman, and played with Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. The following year, Mabern played with James Moody. There have also been performances and recordings with innumerable other musicians, both as leader and sideman. Mabern has also worked with two piano-based groups: the Piano Choir, formed and led by Stanley Cowell from the early 1970s and featuring at least six pianists/keyboardists, and the four-player Contemporary Piano Ensemble, the latter being formed in the early 1990s to pay tribute to Phineas Newborn, Jr. and touring extensively, including at the Montreal (1991) and Monterey Jazz Festivals (1996). He also went to Japan in 1990 as a member of a ten-pianist group that toured together but played and recorded separately. In the mid-1990s, Mabern toured with and led a trio of bassist Erik Applegate and drummer Ed Thigpen. In later years, he recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. In 2010, Mabern received the Don Redman Heritage Award.
Mabern’s popularity in Japan was reflected in his signing for the Japanese label Venus, which has resulted in six albums from 2002; Mabern stated in 2004 that his 2002 recording for Venus, Kiss of Fire, featuring Alexander as a guest, was his best seller. A longtime faculty member at William Paterson University (from 1981), Mabern is a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Mabern’s stated piano preference is “naturally the Steinway D, but if you can’t get a D, any Steinway”.
In 2015 Mabern released Afro Blue, “the first of Mabern’s two dozen leader dates to showcase the context in which he worked frequently during the 1960s: accompanying vocalists”.
Mabern’s piano style has been described as being “aggressive, very positive, crashing out chords that drop like pile drivers and warming up and down the keyboard with huge, whooping bursts of action”, while, at the same time, he shows “a keen sensitivity” as “an extremely perceptive accompanist”. Critic Gary Giddins has identified some of the characteristics of Mabern’s playing as being “blues glisses, [...] tremolos and dissonant block chords”, that help to create a style “that marries McCoy Tyner’s clustering modality with rippling asides that stem from [Art] Tatum”. The influence of Phineas Newborn, Jr. remains noticeable: Mabern employs Newborn’s “manner of playing fast lines in a two-handed octave (or two-octave) unison, and uses this device in wildly imaginative ways”.
When accompanying vocalists, Mabern states that he plays with “with less force, less aggression. I use the soft pedal. You don’t voice the chord with the leading tone. You wait for them to sing a phrase, then fill in the space.”
JULIAN MACDONOUGH is a Pacific Northwest drummer. Over the past ten years he has been a full time member of the Mike Allen Quartet/Trio (Vancouver, BC), the genre-bending “funk” band Megatron (Bellingham, Washington) the Monday Night Project, and alt-country singer songwriter Kasey Anderson (Portland, Oregon).
In addition to those bands, Julian has been very active as a freelance musician. Primarily hired as a jazz drummer up and down the west coast, he has also spent a lot of time in recording studios with over 40 CDs under his belt. Some of his favorites are Mike Allen’s 2003 award winning album “Dialectic,” 2004 “Fearless,” and 2006 “Love One Another.” Kasey Anderson’s “Nowhere Nights” Havilah Rand’s 2009 “Bengalese Butterflies”, Jenni Potts’s “Take This and Go” and New York pianist Aaron Parks “First Romance.”
Julian also enjoys teaching a wide variety of students, ranging in age from 5 to 76. A former teacher at the Seattle Drum School, he loves the challenges and questions that are brought to him from his students.
Music began for ADAM THOMAS in the home; barely an evening went by when the record player didn’t see vinyl. Top plays were John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot.
He began formal music training at the age of eight on trumpet; he continued musical training throughout his school years in private lessons and in instrumental and choral ensembles. At the age of twelve he began electric bass lessons with his mentor Rick Stoen, and at eighteen acquired his first upright bass thanks to his grandfather. Along the way, after the prompting of some friends and mentors, especially Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Adam began singing as a soloist. His bass playing carried him to Texas for music school and then to New York to experience its unique energy and music scene. During his time at North Texas University he had the opportunity to brush shoulders, play music with and learn from such musical legends as John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Wheeler, Louis Hayes, Eddie Gomez, Lynn Seaton, Ignacio Berroa, Ed Soph, and David Leibman many others. In his professional career in Vancouver he has been given the opportunity to work with fantastic musicians from all over the world including Laila Biali, Jill Barber, Brad Turner, Bill Coon, Denzal Sinclair, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Joey DeFrancesco, and many others.
Adam works currently as a performer, recording engineer, (small-time) producer, and microphone modder.
Adam’s CD with the Mike Allen Quartet - “For My Love” - has been featured on CBC radio’s Hot Air, Tonic and North by Northwest.
A tenor saxophonist with an expressive sound rooted in Jazz tradition, a label owner tirelessly documenting unsung Jazz heroes, one of Canada’s most important Jazz impresarios, the hardest-working man in the jazz business – CORY WEEDS is all of these things, and much more.
Weeds may be best known as the founder and owner of Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, which he successfully ran for more than 13 years. Weeds built the Cellar to become one of North America’s best Jazz clubs, where masters such as George Coleman, Jeff Hamilton, Louis Hayes, David “Fathead” Newman, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and the finest jazz musicians from Vancouver and across Canada performed before it closed in February 2014.
But he wasn’t just the club owner. As a saxophonist who studied at the University of North Texas and Capilano College, Weeds spent many nights on the Cellar bandstand as a leader and sideman. He held his own when performing with icons like Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride. Weeds has also recorded ten albums as a leader, including: This Happy Madness (with The Jeff Hamilton Trio), Condition Blue, The Music Of Jackie McLean (with Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, and Joe Farnsworth), As Of Now (with the Harold Mabern Trio), Let’s Go (with Steve Davis), the Juno-nominated Up A Step (Cory Weeds Quartet), With Benefits (with Lewis Nash and Peter Washington), Just Like That (with the Tilden Webb Trio), The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds (with Joey DeFrancesco), Everything’s Coming Up Weeds (with Jim Rotondi), and Big Weeds (with Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, and Joe Farnsworth).
While the Cellar is now a happy memory, the record label Weeds established in 2001 is alive and well. Cellar Live has put out over 100 recordings, including many that have spent extensive time on the JazzWeek charts, with many more releases planned. In addition to playing on numerous sessions, Weeds has also served as producer on more than 80 recordings.
On the presentation front, Weeds is employed full-time by Coastal Jazz & Blues (the producers of the annual TD International Jazz Festival) where he serves as Programming Manager for Clubs & Special Projects.
Cory Weeds Presents also presents music all over the city at various venues including The Italian Cultural Center, Hycroft at The University Women’s Club and Blue Frog Studios in White Rock.
Beyond Vancouver, Weeds has a strong affinity with New York City. He brought so many of the Jazz mecca’s top players to his club, and has performed, toured, and recorded with many of them. Tapping in to his insider knowledge of the New York scene, he has led the New York With Weeds tour to NYC five times. Weeds leads about 40 jazz lovers on each tour to jazz clubs off the beaten track and private recording sessions. The sixth tour in March 2016 sold out in record time!
Finally, Weeds has also worked as an educator, leading the BC Music Educators Association’s Honour Ensemble, giving clinics, and teaching privately. He has also been a jazz disc jockey on Vancouver Co-Op Radio.
Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017
7:30pm, Yukon Arts Centre
Harold Mabern - piano
Julian MacDonough - drums
Adam Thomas - bass
Cory Weeds - tenor saxophone