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Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (Smoke Sessions)

Thomas Conrad's review of album by 81-year-old veteran pianist

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Cover of Harold Mabern album To Love and Be Loved
Cover of Harold Mabern album To Love and Be Loved

If you are known in your circle as a serious jazz fan, people will often ask for album recommendations. They say things like, “I would like to get into jazz but I don’t know where to start.” Refer them to Harold Mabern’s new record.

To introduce neophytes to the art form, you need jazz that is real but accessible. To Love and Be Loved is high-level blood-and-guts jazz, centered in the modern-mainstream tradition, with few barriers to entry. The program is Jazz 101: standards (“I Get a Kick Out of You”); hard-bop anthems (Lee Morgan’s “The Gigolo”); modal jazz (“So What”); funk (“Dat Dere”); ballads (“My Funny Valentine”). There are two kinds of blues: quick (Eric Alexander’s “The Iron Man”) and not (Gene Ammons’ “Hittin’ the Jug”). The album’s most important qualification to serve as a primer is that, at all tempos, it swings like crazy.

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