There are few pianists to with whom you directly associate their hometown like Harold Mabern. Rarely is his name mentioned without stating Memphis. I guess it is a tribute to the city and to Mabern’s mentor Phineas Newborn Jr. Mabern and fellow pianists Mulgrew Miller, Geoff Keezer, and James Williams paid tribute to Newborn with their Contemporary Piano Ensemble recordings The Key Players (DIW Columbia 1993) and Four Pianos For Phineas (Evidence 1996). Like Newborn, Harold Mabern has a fantastic keyboard technique. He can toss McCoy Tyner runs at you or play intimate riffs. Mabern comes from a percussive attack similar to Ahmad Jamal. His trio of Christian McBride and Tony Reedus has reconvened from their 1996 recording Mabern’s Grooveyard.
The trio chose to record a few originals alongside some classics that include Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa,” Richard Rogers’ “You Are Too Beautiful,” J.J Johnson’s “Lament,” Cole Porter’s “Begin The Beguine,” and Gigi Gryce’s “Hymn Of The Orient.” Producers James Williams (another Memphis guy) and Kazunori Sugiyama suggestions of titles and Mabern’s arrangements inspire the trio. Mabern displays some fine boogie-woogie piano on “Boogie For McShann,” as well as a classical yet child’s touch on the title track. His playing is infused with a joyful exuberance. Sideman to the likes of Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan, and, of late tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, Mabern, like Tommy Flanagan, is stepping out of the shadows to accept the accolades he deserves.
Track List:To Maya Glenne With Love; You Are Too Beautiful; Hymn Of The Orient; A Song For Connie; Lament; Boogie For All McShann; Speak Low; Little Girl Blue; Blue Bossa; Maybe September; Begin The Beguine.