At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82 Harold Mabern has been one of jazz's most consistent accompanists over the last 60 years. In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we explore some of that history with him.

Harold Mabern Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist

Harold Mabern

Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist

Jazz Night In America: The Radio Program

At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/614517884/614520719" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

Small wonder that Mabern, who recently turned 82, has been one of jazz's stalwart accompanists over the last 60 years, a valuable yet unflashy asset for everyone from Wes Montgomery to Sarah Vaughan. In this episode of Jazz Night, we'll explore some of that history, including Mabern's early years in Memphis and his deep connection with Lee Morgan — which ended with the trumpeter's shocking death at 33.

But we'll also point the spotlight squarely on Mabern as a composer and bandleader — focusing on a recent hit at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, where he led a trio with bassist Nat Reeves on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.

Among the tunes in the set are "Edward Lee" and "Bobby, Benny, Jymie, Lee, Bu," both bearing dedications to Morgan. We'll also have some fun with a digression about the art of the musical quote — another of Mabern's many talents, which have a way of hiding in plain sight.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Pat Metheny. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Pat Metheny On Piano Jazz

On this episode, The Pat Metheny Trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, performs an exclusive version of "Go Get It" and "Bright Size Life."

Pat Metheny On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/649963580/649988817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Ingrid Hertfelder/Courtesy of the artist

Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

Hear Grammy-winning pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo demonstrate his whirlwind approach to music, technical brilliance and post-bop Latin rhythms.

Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/647914078/647930411" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Soprano Eileen Farrell Erich Auerbach/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Erich Auerbach/Getty Images

Eileen Farrell On Piano Jazz

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1993, she shares her tremendous vocal range on "How High the Moon" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning."

Eileen Farrell On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/645639983/645646714" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Peter Symes/Redferns

Gene Harris On Piano Jazz

On this 1988 Piano Jazz episode, Harris opens with a slow and easy "Black and Blue," then McPartland joins him on "Bag's Groove."

Gene Harris On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/643301657/643308374" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Stefon Harris Elizabeth Leitzell/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Elizabeth Leitzell/Courtesy of the artist

Stefon Harris On Piano Jazz

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is one of the most innovative and impressive artists in jazz, blazing new trails on vibraphone and marimba.

Stefon Harris On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/639381859/639391660" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jess Stacy is featured on this week's episode of Piano Jazz William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress hide caption

toggle caption William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress

Jess Stacy On Piano Jazz

As one of the leading pianists of the swing era, Stacy was best known for his work with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and had a prolific career before stepping back from the music world in the 1950's.

Jess Stacy On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/637110919/637149734" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Tony Bennett On Piano Jazz

The iconic vocalist makes an appearance on 'Piano Jazz' and shares his inspirations.

Tony Bennett On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/632750594/632767944" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top