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Overdue Ovation for George Cables

Owner of an identity, with hints of Herbie

George Cables

The notion that George Cables has received insufficient acclaim during his half-century as a professional jazz musician gave bassist Stanley Clarke pause. “It depends what view you’re looking at,” Clarke suggested at Manhattan’s Blue Note in November, a day after reuniting with Cables and drummer Lenny White—once the rhythm section for Joe Henderson—for the first time in 44 years. “Younger people, normal people who don’t listen to jazz or the evolution of jazz, may not know who George is. I’ve played with a lot of piano players—Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea—and George is right there. His touch and vocabulary always tell me it’s him. He always sounded like himself.”

On the bandstand an hour later, the trio received raucous applause from a packed house consisting primarily of baby-boomer-and-older “normals” who barely responded when the emcee announced Cables’ name. That changed after Cables, undaunted by the arena-level bass amplification, expertly addressed Clarke’s “3 Wrong Notes.” On that barely disguised contrafact of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation,” he sculpted a melodic path through the changes at race-car velocity, interpolating his own voicings and building an arc that climaxed with rhythmically assured 16- and 32-bar exchanges with White.

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The notion that George Cables has received insufficient acclaim during his half-century as a professional jazz musician gave bassist Stanley Clarke pause. “It depends what view you’re looking at,” Clarke suggested at Manhattan’s Blue Note in November, a day after reuniting with Cables and drummer Lenny White—once the rhythm section for Joe Henderson—for the first time in 44 years. “Younger people, normal people who don’t listen to jazz or the evolution of jazz, may not know who George is. I’ve played with a lot of piano players—Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea—and George is right there. His touch and vocabulary always tell me it’s him. He always sounded like himself.”

On the bandstand an hour later, the trio received raucous applause from a packed house consisting primarily of baby-boomer-and-older “normals” who barely responded when the emcee announced Cables’ name. That changed after Cables, undaunted by the arena-level bass amplification, expertly addressed Clarke’s “3 Wrong Notes.” On that barely disguised contrafact of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation,” he sculpted a melodic path through the changes at race-car velocity, interpolating his own voicings and building an arc that climaxed with rhythmically assured 16- and 32-bar exchanges with White.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published