3 More Gems From Harold Mabern

In my first 3 Gems Harold Mabern Told Me, we learned how much Harold stresses: relying on your ear, being greedy for the music, and the difference between inspiration and motivation. Harold’s full of incredible knowledge. Here’s 3 more gems from Harold to dwell on…

1.) Good music is good music

Harold would play all sorts of tunes in my lessons. Sometimes it was a straight-ahead jazz tune and sometimes it was a pop tune. It didn’t matter who wrote it, who performed it, or what the general public thought about it.

Often, he would take a pop tune and create his own arrangement, transforming it into a work of art. Don’t discriminate against non-jazz music. Trust your ear and figure out what makes particular music appeal to you. Good music = Good music.

2.) Learn your standards in all keys

Take tunes from the jazz-standard-repertoire and learn them in all keys. Some standards Harold loves and plays are not so familiar by many people today. Tunes like, “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” and “Let’s face the Music and Dance.”

You can tell when Harold plays these tunes that he has a connection with them; that he’s fallen in love with them. That’s how you should feel about the tunes you’re playing. So find some standards you like, develop a relationship with them, and learn them in all keys.

3.) Understand where players came from

In our combo rehearsals, Harold would write a few players on the chalk board and say “Who influenced all of these guys?” Most of the time, none of us would guess the correct answer, even when he made the question multiple choice! He would then show the lineage of influence from one player to the next.

One day, he illustrated how nearly every piano player was influenced by Nat King Cole. Understanding where players come from helps you gain a much deeper knowledge and appreciation for this great music.

There you have it. 3 more gems of wisdom from the always inspiring Harold Mabern. Now get inspired by Harold and Wes Montgomery in 1965!