Harold Mabern – To Love And Be Loved – Smoke Sessions Records SSR-1706 64:40****
For a taste of old fashioned musical goodness this is it.
( Harold Mabern – piano; Eric Alexander – tenor saxophone; Nat Reeves – bass; Jimmy Cobb – drums; Freddie Hendrix – trumpet # 3, 4, 7; Cyro Baptista – percussion #1)
There are an endless number of idiomatic phrases that refer to age. Among them are: “you’re only as old as you feel”, “many a fine tune played on an old fiddle” and “growing old gracefully”. Any and all of these phrases may be used to describe two of the key principals on this “retro” session. Pianist Harold Mabern was 81 and drummer Jimmy Cobb was 88 at the time of this recording on April 17, 2017. The release To Love And Be Loved is a tribute to their longevity and their creativity, with no indication that either of these fine musicians is slowing down.
This “live” session is spiffed up with compositions from the repetoire of older popular standards, familiar jazz themes, and a tune from tenor man Eric Alexander. “To Loved And Be Loved” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen was used as incidental music in the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine film Some Came Running. Taking it up a notch with the addition of percussionist Cyro Baptista, the band shows their multi-faceted capabilities with a samba/bossa nova take on the number.
Another oldie but goodie, is the 1934 composition by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz “If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You”. The go-to jazz version appears to be John Coltrane’s interpretation from 1958 with the Red Garland Trio. Tenor man Eric Alexander is clearly up to the task here as he delivers a splendidly expressive take on the number, with Mabern in eloquent support with some Garneresque block chording.
There are a plethora of gems on this disc whether it be the Miles Davis associated items such as “My Funny Valentine” and “So What” or the Lee Morgan original “The Gigolo” that featured pianist Harold Mabern on the Morgan recording. Listening to any of these, it is clear that Marbern has a firm sense of what he was doing, and that he was adept at revealing the story of any song. Furthermore drummer Jimmy Cobb knows how to keep everything moving along with percussive musicality.
For a more fulsome appreciation of Mabern’s talents, his solo excursion on the Bobby Timmons’ bluesy “Dat Dere” shows his time-keeping sensibilities and energetically powerful playing. Gene Ammons “Hittin’The Jug” closes out the session in a classic slow blues fashion. Nat Reeves lays down a solid bass line that Mabern picks up with a brawny statement. Alexander then jumps on theme in rugged fashion and lays it all out. A solid groove through and through.
To Love And Be Loved
If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You
My Funny Valentine
The Iron Man
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Hittin’ The Jug