Saturday, May 16, 2015

Harold Mabern reunites with Norah Jones, Gregory Porter and Kurt Elling on "Afro Blue"

Harold Mabern's new CD for Smoke Sessions Records, "Afro Blue," pairs the legendary pianist with vocalists Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, and Alexis Cole. "I love vocalists. I love to play for singers because that's really how you learn how to play the piano jazz-wise. They go through every aspect of music - changing keys, slow tempos to fast, playing rubato, playing verses, all of the Great American Songbook - that's really how you learn how to play," says Mabern.

It's something he takes pride in and has been doing since he first hit the stage at Birdland half a century ago with Betty Carter and Johnny Hartman. In the 70s, he recorded with George Benson on "Body Talk" (CTI), and in the 2000s I attended many of his concerts with Eric Alexander, who guests on the new album. There is a lot of music on "Afro Blue," but Mabern's soulful, blues-driven style is the constant highlight.

Featuring: Harold Mabern (piano),  Gregory Porter (vocals),  Norah Jones (vocals),  Jane Monheit (vocals),  Kurt Elling (vocals),  Alexis Cole (vocals),  Peter Bernstein (guitar),  Jeremy Pelt (trumpet),  Steve Turre (trombone),  Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone),  John Webber (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums).

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