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Lookin' On the Bright Side

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Album Review

Harold Mabern was nearing his 57th birthday around the time of the two 1993 studio sessions that provided the music for this Japanese release; he's clearly in a mood to celebrate, as the CD begins with a driving hard bop original, "Look on the Bright Side," powered by his aggressive risk-taking playing and fueled by a lower key solo by young bassist Christian McBride and a series of powerful drum breaks by seasoned veteran Jack DeJohnette. Although Mabern's arrangement of John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" is enjoyable, it is because the rhythm simulates a jaunty stroll while the leader unleashes some pyrotechnics. Likewise, Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" is never rushed, but executed with finesse. The musicians have fun disguising the introduction to "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," a piece that can turn saccharine in the wrong hands, but their lively interplay in a brisk setting makes it work. "It's a Lonesome Old Town," a piece long forgotten by most players, has a thunderous introduction, but Mabern reverts to its melancholy nature in the subdued body of the piece, though he can't resist tossing in a little of his lightening runs and heavy tremolos. He also plays two originals, including his gospel-flavored "Too Late Fall Back Baby" and the strutting "Big Time Cooper," named for a diminutive (five-foot four-inches) pianist Mabern admired years earlier in Chicago. Highly recommended for hard bop fans.


Born: 20 March 1936 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s

One of several excellent hard bop pianists from the Memphis area, Harold Mabern has led relatively few dates through the years, but he has always been respected by his contemporaries. He played in Chicago with MJT + 3 in the late '50s and then moved to New York in 1959. Mabern worked with Jimmy Forrest, Lionel Hampton, the Jazztet (1961-1962), Donald Byrd, Miles Davis (1963), J.J. Johnson (1963-1965), Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, Joe Williams (1966-1967), and Sarah Vaughan. During...
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Lookin' On the Bright Side, HAROLD MABERN TRIO
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