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Jazzcraft Studio Recordings 1978-79

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Album Review

The configuration of this two-disc set is a little strange. It is actually comprised of two separate albums: the first, originally issued as Wise in Time, is a quintet date co-led by trumpeter Howard McGhee and saxophonist Teddy Edwards. The rhythm section for this 1979 session consists of pianist Art Hillery (who, sadly, is playing a rather lousy-sounding piano), and a truly great bass-and-drums duo, Leroy Vinnegar and Billy Higgins. The group focuses here on ballads and midtempo tunes, jumping up to higher speed on a handful of bop standards ("Relaxin' at Camarillo," "Moose the Mooche") but mostly sticking to more laid-back fare. Sadly, this seems partly to be because that's all McGhee was up to; his tone is weak, his pitch is consistently flat, and at times, he is audibly dragging the beat. Edwards is in fine form here, but McGhee really sounds pretty terrible. The second disc was originally released as Home Run; it was recorded a year earlier and is credited to the Howard McGhee/Benny Bailey Sextet. Bailey is also a trumpeter, and he and McGhee lead their sextet (which includes Barry Harris on piano) through a program consisting mostly of standards from the bop and immediate post-bop eras. On this disc, McGhee is in much better form, playing with invention, energy, and noticeably fuller tone and better pitch. Tempos are brisker, and if McGhee seems to falter a bit on both "Moose the Mooche" and Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud," he sounds much better on the more moderately paced material. All in all, this set makes an interesting document but perhaps isn't the best memorial to a major mid-century jazz talent.


Born: March 6, 1918 in Tulsa, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

During 1945-1949, Howard McGhee was one of the finest trumpeters in jazz, an exciting performer with a sound of his own, who among the young bop players, ranked at the top with Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro. The "missing link" between Roy Eldridge and Fats Navarro (Navarro influenced Clifford Brown who influenced most of the post-1955 trumpeters), McGhee originally played clarinet and tenor, not taking up trumpet until he was 17. He worked in territory bands, was with Lionel Hampton in 1941, and...
Full Bio
Jazzcraft Studio Recordings 1978-79, Howard McGhee
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  • $19.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: May 30, 2011

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