Howard McGhee - Sharp Edge

Total Length: 40:55

Sharp Edge - 5.58
Shades Of Blue - 5.07
Cool - 2.56
The Day After - 2.07
Topside - 4.26
Arbee - 5.53
Ill Wind - 4.37
My Delight - 9.51

Howard McGhee debuted during the Swing Era but made the transition to bop, taking part in the woodshedding sessions at Minton’s Playhouse, though his contributions have been overlooked to some extent by critics. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma who was raised in Detroit, McGhee played as a sideman in the orchestras of Andy Kirk, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet and Count Basie. But bop drew his attention in the mid-1940s and he was credited as being a prime influence on fellow trumpeter Fats Navarro. He appeared with Lester Young on his Aladdin recordings and with Charlie Parker on some of the famous Dial sessions before gaining notice as a leader himself. McGhee recorded a number of albums over the next decade, until substance abuse problems somewhat curtailed his activities. Rebounding during the first half of the 1960s with a flurry of record dates as a leader or sideman, he nearly disappeared from the jazz scene between 1966 and 1976. McGhee finally gained the attention of several European record labels during the later years of his life, making a number of records as a leader during the decade prior to his death in 1987.
McGhee was in the midst of rebounding from drug addiction at the time of this 1961 session, as he had recorded and played only sporadically over the previous five years. The band assembled for this recording includes pianist Junior Mance, bassist George Tucker, drummer Jimmy Cobb and on six of the tracks, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, with four of the songs and all of the arrangements by the leader.
McGhee’s sinewy muted trumpet is a highlight of his “Shades of Blue” as he engages Tucker in a call-and-response to introduce his tasty blues. His “Cool” is a punchy bop vehicle with potent solos by Coleman, McGhee and Mance. McGhee’s “Topside” begins as a Latin-flavored vehicle, switching to straight-ahead bop in the midst of his fiery solo. Tom McIntosh penned the moody, lush ballad “The Day After,” in which Coleman provides a lush counter-melody behind the leader in this miniature. McGhee is again on fire in his mid-tempo blues “Sharp Edge,” complimented by Coleman’s relatively spacious solo, though he inserts an energetic chorus as well. The leader’s emotional muted trumpet introduces the standard “Ill Wind” over Mance’s soft, hypnotic backing, with the mood changing as Coleman makes his bluesy entrance; McGhee switches gears to a more upbeat setting for his third and final solo chorus. Mance is the dominate soloist in Freeman Lee's little known "My Delight," though McGhee makes his presence felt. The underrated George Tucker, who died suddenly in 1965, along with the still very active Jimmy Cobb, provide terrific support throughout the session.

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