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Billy Mackel

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b. John William Mackel, 28 December 1912, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. After playing banjo in and around Baltimore, Mackel switched to guitar and tried his hand at band leading. In 1944, however, he joined Lionel Hampton’s big band where he remained more or less continuously for more than three decades. With Hampton, Mackel’s duties were primarily those of a rhythm player, a role at which he excelled. When solo opportunities did present themselves he took them eagerly, displaying a freewheeling style with a strong underpinning that gave colouring to his blues performances and R&B. Contrastingly, his occasional arrangements for the Hampton band show a good and confident ear for the nuances of bop.

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