Howard McGhee

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Howard McGhee, Brick Fleagle and Miles Davis at the piano, circa September 1947.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

Howard McGhee (born March 6, 1918 in Tulsa , Oklahoma , † July 17, 1987 New York City , New York ) was an American jazz trumpeter .

life and work

His family moved to Detroit when he was six months old. His first music lesson was playing the clarinet in high school. After leaving school, he switched to the tenor saxophone and went to California , where he played in Gene Coy's band. In 1935 McGhee switched to playing the trumpet , which he brought to mastery in the Art Bronson Band. Louis Armstrong was his great role model at the time. From 1936 to 1940 he played with local bands until Lionel Hampton discovered him: This brought him up in Andy Kirk's band. During this time he met Dizzy Gillespie , who influenced him musically. Short guest appearances with Charlie Barnet and Coleman Hawkins followed .

Dizzy Gillespie's pupil soon turned to bebop and was influenced by Roy Eldridge , the master of swing . In the mid-1940s he played in Charlie Parker's band as the successor to Miles Davis , recorded a number of records - u. a. for Black & White (“Ooda Coo Bop”) - and played with Lester Young , Sonny Criss , Dodo Marmarosa and Hampton Hawes . He became known through his sextet and the cooperation with Coleman Hawkins, as his successor on tenor saxophone he later recorded Teddy Edwards . McGhee toured with Norman Granz ' Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1947.

Howard McGhee
Thelonious Monk and Howard McGhee, Minton's Playhouse , circa September 1947.
Photo: William P. Gottlieb

For his part, McGhee shaped the trumpet player Fats Navarro and the brothers Percy and Jimmy Heath , whom he accepted into his band in 1947/48. Joint recordings were made in 1948 with the singer Mary Ann McCall , the saxophonist Dexter Gordon and, for Savoy, with the sextet, which he led with Milt Jackson .

With Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Bessie Smith, McGhee is one of the “great tragics” of jazz. The fact that he died in July 1987 exactly 20 years after John Coltrane and at the same time on the 28th anniversary of "Lady Day" Billie Holiday's death (1959) also contributed to the myth . Brian Priestley sees McGhee as an important link between swing and bebop.

Discographic notes



  1. ^ Another important influence was Roy Eldridge ; see. Priestley, p. 424.