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SOPAC Presents Giants Of Jazz 22:
Honoring Harold Mabern

originally published: 10/17/2019

SOPAC Presents Giants Of Jazz 22: Honoring Harold Mabern

(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- Jazz all-stars salute one of their own – the late piano legend and influential music educator Harold Mabern – in Giants of Jazz 22 Honoring Harold Mabern, a concert celebration of his life and craft on Saturday, November 16 at 8:00pm.

Participating in this unforgettable evening at SOPAC are jazz artists Eric Alexander, Bill Charlap, Cyrus Chestnut, Jimmy Cobb, George Coleman, Steve Davis, Joe Farnsworth, Roberta Gambarini, Louis Hayes, David Hazeltine, Freddie Hendrix, Vincent Herring, Vic Juris, Mike LeDonne, Russell Malone, T.S. Monk, Jeb Patton, Jeremy Pelt, Rufus Reid, Claudio Roditi, Dave Stryker, Peter Washington and John Webber.

Giants of Jazz 22 is SOPAC’s 22nd anniversary event showcasing the finest in jazz musicianship. Past honorees have included trumpeter Claudio Roditi, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Tickets range from $55-$65 and can be purchased online.

Mabern, who died on September 17 at the age of 83, coached young musicians at William Paterson University for more than three decades. “I don’t consider myself a teacher,” he once told a reporter. “I’m an advanced student. You never stop learning. If you stop learning, you might as well go crawl in a hole somewhere.”

“Harold Mabern was, without a doubt, one of the greatest pianists of his generation,” said bassist John Lee, producer of the event. “A prolific composer and generous teacher, beloved by his peers and students, he made an indelible contribution to the music he loved and the spirit of jazz.”



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Regarded as one of the world’s greatest jazz, hard bop and soul pianists, Harold Mabern (pronounced MAY-burn) performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley, George Benson and many others. Critic Gary Giddins once wrote, “With the wind at his back, he can sound like an ocean roar.”

Born and raised in Memphis, Mabern taught himself piano and was deeply influenced by pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. Along with some Memphis musicians, Mabern moved to Chicago in 1954, where he found work backing up tenor sax players Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Clifford Jordan. He also studied with pianist Ahmad Jamal and played in the hard bop group MJT + 3, before arriving in New York City in 1959.

One of his earliest significant gigs was an 18-month stay with Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet. After the Jazztet disbanded, Mabern worked with Jimmy Forrest, Lionel Hampton and Donald Byrd, and did a brief stint with Miles Davis in 1963. He worked with J.J. Johnson (1963-65), Lee Morgan (1965) and Hank Mobley, recording on the album, Dippin’.

From 1968-70, Mabern led four albums for Prestige, the first being A Few Miles From Memphis with a lineup that featured two saxophonists, one of them fellow Memphis native George Coleman. As the 1970s began, Mabern became a key member of Lee Morgan’s working group and appeared on several live and studio recordings made by the trumpeter. In 1971, he played on Stanley Turrentine’s The Sugar Man and Don’t Mess With Mr. T. albums in 1973. He also recorded with Stanley Cowell’s Piano Choir and as a leader for DIW/Columbia and Sackville, and toured with the Contemporary Piano Ensemble (1993-1995).

Mabern toured and recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. Mabern and Alexander appeared together on over 20 CDs. A longtime faculty member at William Paterson University, Mabern also was a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

About the artists:


  • A former student of Mabern’s at William Paterson University, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander performed with his mentor on more than 20 CDs. He has appeared in many capacities on record, including leader, sideman and producer, and records some of his original compositions.


  • Grammy Award winning pianist Bill Charlap has performed with many of the leading artists of our time, including Phil Woods, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Wynton Marsalis, Freddy Cole and Houston Person.


  • Pianist, composer and Howard University professor Cyrus Chestnut has been lauded for his talents in mixing jazz with spirituals, hymns and blues.


  • Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb is the elder statesman of the Miles Davis bands. His work with Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly spanned 1957-1963 and included the masterpiece Kind of Blue.


  • Displaying brilliant technique and a soulful tone rooted in his Memphis hometown, saxophonist George Coleman has performed with many jazz legends during his half-century in music and influenced countless saxophonists.


  • Widely recognized as one of today’s leading voices on the trombone, Steve Davis is known for his lyrical, hard-swinging style and such albums as Think Ahead and Say When.


  • Joe Farnsworth, drummer for McCoy Tyner, is known for his blazing speed, precision and melodic playing. He is a graduate of William Paterson University, where he performed with Eric Alexander and studied with Mabern.


  • Grammy-nominated singer Roberta Gambarini, a native of Italy, draws her vocal inspirations from jazz icons Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and blues artists like Mahalia Jackson.


  • Award-winning drummer Louis Hayes has played and recorded with John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, George Benson, Ravi Shankar and many other legends. He began his career at age 18 with the great Horace Silver Quintet.


  • Contemporary jazz pianist David Hazeltine has recorded 35 CDs as a leader and hundreds more as a sideman on major labels. As a teen he caught the attention of Sonny Stitt and Chet Baker, who urged him to make the move to New York City.


  • Another graduate of William Paterson’s jazz program, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix is a Teaneck native who has worked with a wide array of artists, among them the Count Basie Orchestra, the Christian McBride Big Band, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.


  • Saxophonist Vincent Herring’s intense, soulful, multi-noted style and ebullient swing have excited audiences around the globe. He forged a nine-year musical partnership with Nat Adderley that produced nine albums (Workin’) and worldwide tours.


  • Originally from Jersey City, guitarist Vic Juris was a member of the Gary Peacock Quartet and musical director of the Charles Mingus Guitar Quintet. He took up the guitar at 10 and by the mid-’60s was playing with R&B bands in the region.


  • Mike LeDonne is a jazz pianist and B-3 organist known for post-bop and hard bop. He has worked with Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins and James Moody, and was a member of the Widespread Depression Jazz Orchestra.


  • Jazz guitarist Russell Malone often plays in a swinging, straight-ahead style, weaving in elements of blues, gospel and R&B. He was a member of the bands of Harry Connick, Jr., Jimmy Smith and Diana Krall and is a critically acclaimed solo artist.


  • Award-winning drummer, composer and bandleader T.S. Monk, the son of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, toured with his father’s trio and was taught by famed drummer Max Roach. He is the founder of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.


  • A former student of Sir Roland Hanna and Jimmy Heath, pianist Jeb Patton has toured or performed with the Heath Brothers, The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Barbara Cook, Jessye Norman, Roberta Gambarini and his own trio.


  • Young jazz trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has collaborated with ensembles like the Roy Hargrove Big Band and the Lewis Nash Septet and masters including Bobby “Blue” Bland, Bobby Short and Nancy Wilson. His latest release is Make Noise!


  • Premier bassist Rufus Reid, author of The Evolving Bassist, has composed for orchestras and bands, large and small, and co-founded the jazz program at William Paterson. He has collaborated with Stan Getz, Kenny Barron and many others.


  • Brazilian jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player Claudio Roditi, a Grammy nominee, broke into the local circuit by playing with Tito Puente, Herbie Mann, Paquito D’Rivera and others. An artist of power and lyricism, he is an in-demand leader and sideman.


  • Guitarist Dave Stryker can be heard leading his own group or as a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and many others. The Village Voice called him “one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.”


  • Double bassist Peter Washington has performed with Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Bill Charlap’s trio and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was part of The Blue Note 7, an all-star septet commemorating 70 years of Blue Note Records.


  • John Webber is a double bassist who collaborated on recordings with Mabern, Etta Jones and Eric Alexander. He tours internationally and counts bassists Ray Brown and Paul Chambers among his musical influences.



SOPAC is located at One SOPAC Way in South Orange, New Jersey. Since 2006, SOPAC has been serving as a premier performing arts center in the region. SOPAC offers innovative artistic and cultural experiences for diverse audiences in an intimate, inviting environment. The arts center hosts a variety of live performances, community events and education programs for all ages. SOPAC is home for Seton Hall University Arts Council’s performances, including Classical Concert Series, Jazz ‘N the Hall performances and Seton Hall University Theatre productions. SOPAC programs are made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.


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