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Album Review

This excellent album of vintage bop opens with seven tracks recorded in Chicago during February 1948, using members of the band that Howard McGhee was leading at Chicago's Argyle Lounge at the time. Milt Jackson and Percy Heath are heard on the first three tunes, along with an unnamed baritone saxophonist. For the second session McGhee used an entirely different band, with a tenor player who is believed to have been Kenny Mann and a rhythm section of Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and the great J.C. Heard. Billy Eckstine, who by this time had dissolved his own band and was busily pulling in an unprecedented amount of cash by making vocal pop records for MGM, blows his valve trombone alongside McGhee on this date. No vocalist is mentioned in the enclosed discography, even though someone scats up a storm from time to time. Whoever it was, he didn't sound like Eckstine. McGhee's next recording dates as a leader took place in Paris, where 13 sides were cut for the Vogue and Blue Star labels on May 15th and 18th. This band really cooked, with Jimmy Heath and Jesse Powell joining the trumpeter's front line and a rhythm section of Vernon Biddle, Percy Heath, and Specs Wright. The upbeat numbers are exceptionally well-crafted studies in modern jazz. "Denise" and "Etoile," slow and reflective, sound like the poetically charged "Portrait" studies that young Charles Mingus was already beginning to formulate on his own. The closing selections, recorded for Blue Note in New York on October 11, 1948, pair McGhee with Fats Navarro alongside alto saxophonist Ernie Henry and Milt Jackson playing both vibes and piano. Curly Russell and Kenny Clarke round off this amazing six-piece Howard McGhee Boptet.


Born: 06 March 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...
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1948, Howard McGhee
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