|The great Harold Mabern|
Live At The Lighthouse and The Gigolo. He's a giant of a man: his hands on the piano have a span of almost an octave and a half! His style is a mixture of many traditional elements like bop, stride, and gospel, but he can pound in a McCoy Tyner-ish fashion with the best of them. (I've seen the piano shake when Mabern is playing.)
The legend is that Mabern knows at least 5,000 tunes. Yes, jazz students. 5000 tunes. Deal with it. He's forgotten more tunes than you'll ever learn in your life. Well, I can't prove that, but my point is the man knows a lot of music. I heard him do a modern rendition of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" that was, to me, a revelation. He also recorded a great version of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing". I'm saying that he knows tunes from all different kinds of genres.
The few times I've met Mabern over the years, I found him to be friendly, and very down to earth. He's been teaching at William Paterson University for many years. He seemed like a natural born educator: someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about the music. But very honest and straightforward. ( For example, I remember I saw him lead a jam session at the Musician's Union when I first moved to New York. On one tune, the drummer was not up to snuff. Mabern said aloud:" Now, let's get serious: I took a bus and three trains from Brooklyn to get here, so can we get a REAL drummer up here. I mean, somebody that can REALLY play?)
legendary tenor Mario Lanza's famous version. Well, Mabern's version was wonderful. He added a kind of pedal point interlude to the piece that was quite inspirational. I wasn't familiar with the tune at the time, but I was curious.
That was the last tune of the night. The One Step Down was usually a three set gig, so this was after three 1 hour sets. As the audience was paying their tabs and filing out of the club, I felt the need to approach Mabern and ask him some questions. I tried not to be annoying.
I asked Mabern about the last tune he had played, and when he told me it was " Be My Love", I said, "Wow, I really want to learn this tune." So Mabern said, "Oh, OK, I'll write out a chart for you right now."
I assumed he was joking. It was 2 in the morning, he had just played three sets of trio, and was dripping with sweat. I said, " Oh, no, you don't have to do that." But he was already writing on manuscript paper. And he sat there for 15 minutes and made me a chart of " Be My Love." I was floored at his generosity, not to mention his stamina. So he finished the chart and gave it to me and was very nonchalant about the whole thing. He didn't want money or anything. He just seemed to want to impart knowledge.