Saturday, October 18, 2014

Howard McGhee on Modern

Modern jazz time again. This record is not that rare (it has been reissued on CD), but at the same time, it's not particularly easy to find in any format.

Howard McGhee (1918-1987) was born in Tulsa and raised in Detroit. Although he was not as famous as, say, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, or Fats Navarro, he was, like them, an important figure in the transition to modern jazz. McGhee wrote "McGhee Special" for the Andy Kirk big band, and recorded it with Kirk in 1942. His own version, from three years later, is even more exciting and daring than the Kirk side. It's an outstanding virtuoso trumpet performance, as well as a lesson in the extended harmonies the modernists were exploring at the time.

The flip side, "McGhee Jumps," is a more basic blues tune, but with a few modern touches, and with good solos by (I think) Vic Dickenson on trombone and Teddy Edwards on tenor sax in addition to McGhee. This was also issued as "Cool Fantasy, part 1." The full personnel of McGhee's smallish big band is:

McGhee, Snooky Young, Karl George - trumpets
Vic Dickenson, Gene Roland - trombones
Robert Isabell, Gene Porter - alto saxes; Teddy Edwards, James King - tenor saxes
Vernon Biddle - piano; Bob Kesterson - bass; Roy Porter - drums.

 The Bihari brothers, Joe, Saul, and Jules, started the Modern label in Los Angeles in 1945. The story of the label and its subsidiaries is a long and fascinating one - too long to get into here - but many great jazz and blues recordings first appeared on the Bihari's labels.

My copy of this record is in generally excellent condition, but there is a little swishing at the beginning of each side. Enjoy "McGhee Special" and "McGhee Jumps," recorded in Hollywood in September, 1945.

McGhee Special

McGhee Jumps

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