As is too often the case, we gain more and more respect and insight into an artist after he or she has passed away. Harold Mabern
may have been overshadowed by many of his peers but he remained true to himself: bringing to the music a Memphis-bred hard bop blues and flourishing as both sought after sideman and impish, emphatic leader.
Mabern never let you forget that, by all accounts, he was a generous, joyous man who reveled not only in the music of the moment but in the grandly human art of communication. His big hands could, at any given moment in the studio or onstage, create thunder, bombast, silence, solace. He could waltz you across the dance floor or pin you to your seat. Mabern, God bless him, could play it all. And, to our eternal gratitude, he did. No pomp or circumstance, just true spirit. Thus the spirit guides him on this posthumous set, Mabern Plays Coltrane
. Mabern Plays Coltrane
completes a trio of career defining releases taken from a three week residency at NYC's Smoke Jazz and Supper Club in January of 2018. The first, The Iron Man
, (Smoke Sessions Records, 2018) fervently spotlighted Mabern the performer and interpreter and proved beyond doubt what he brought to every stage on any given night: power, grace, unbridled (yet humble) virtuosity, and humor. Mabern Plays Mabern
, (Smoke Sessions Records, 2020) highlighted his many striking compositions, among them "The Beehive," "Rakin' and Scrapin,'" and the boisterous "Iron Man."
So Mabern Plays Coltrane
is just that and then some. A powerhouse set of John Coltrane
originals and setlist standards that perhaps, somewhere above this troubled plane, has Coltrane confiding to Mabern, "Damn bro, I should have played them in that order." Accompanied by the same sextet that tore into Mabern Plays Mabern
: namely Vincent Herring
, alto sax, Eric Alexander
, tenor sax, trombonist Steve Davis
, bassist John Webber
and drummer Joe Farnsworth
. "Dahomey Dance" ignites the hour long set and the fire burns bright long after.
Clean, brisk, rocking, raucous, and never lacking in energy, free swing or inspiration, the horns tear into "Blue Train" and a blistering "Impressions." Farnsworth juggles rhythm and meter. Webber veers, twists, and turns with insightful agility. "Naima" and "Dear Lord" showcase subtlety and nuance. And at the center of it all, where he rightfully belongs, is Harold Mabern. Long may his piano resound.
Dahomey Dance; Blue Train; Impressions; Dear Lord; My Favorite Things; Naima; Straight Street.