Bebop trumpeter HOWARD McGHEE: “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”

Trumpeter Howard McGhee, among young jazz adepts unjustly almost forgotten today, was a reliable man if you’re following his steadily flowing recorded output between 1942 & 1948, which were the heydays of the bebop era.

And ‘Maggie’, so his nickname in musicians’ circles, was in the middle of it all.

He was not phrasing as “mathematically” like his great successor and friend Theodore ‘Fats’ Navarro, or the next in the line, Clifford Brown, affectionately called ‘Brownie’ by his friends and fans, but he could express his ideas as fast, and as eloquently as the two other trumpet geniuses. For me, he is the stylistic link between Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, rooting deeper in the swing tradition than Fats & Brownie who were straight ahead boppers quasi from the start.

Here is one of his earliest solo features, and since he was also a distinguished composer, he is performing his own tune “McGhee Special” with Andy Kirk & His Twelve Clouds Of Joy, recorded in NYC on July 14, 1942. — This is a brilliant ride, starting in F, then modulating to D-flat for even more furiously swingin’ trumpet fireworks:

This very modulation is the same like at Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump” and its rip-off “Two O’Clock Jump” by Harry James, and it may be that the latter’s artistic trumpet acrobatics made a big impact on young Howard McGhee who has the same vibrato like Harry when he finishes his phrases.

As for the title of this short entry (you will find quite a lot of information about ‘Maggie’ on the internet), it’s important to know that the trumpeter was one of the first who had a regular gig in a white big band, namely that of Charlie Barnet.

As far as I know are there no recordings, featuring the boppin’ bugler with Barnet, but this story I’ve found by chance, should tell you enough about the problems, that brave black American brass men like ‘Little Jazz’ Roy Eldridge (Gene Krupa & Artie Shaw), Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page (Artie Shaw), Charlie Shavers (Tommy Dorsey) & Herbert Lee “Peanuts” Holland (‘Maggie’s’ predecessor in Charlie Barnet’s orchestra) had to face when it came to hotel reservations, entering ballrooms via the main entrance, or being served in restaurants:

Trumpeter Howard McGhee’s Endless Journey into the Worcester Night by Chet Williamson.

‘Maggie’ participated in two legendary recording sessions with Charlie Parker, one with a disastrous interlude (and a triumphant finish for McGhee), and the other, featuring some of the most concentrated and creative works I’ve ever heard by any jazz group.

Most of you may know the tragic version of “Lover Man”, performed by Charlie Parker when he was in very bad shape, but not many are aware of the two outstanding numbers, recorded by Howard McGhee on the same date with the same band, after Bird was gone: “Trumpet At Tempo” (“Indiana”) & “Thermodynamics” (a.k.a. “Trumpet In Spades” by Duke Ellington). This happened in Hollywood, on July 29, 1946.

The outcome of the 2nd date on February 26, 1947 was more than just satisfactory, it was an absolute highlight in the careers of all participants: Charlie Parker (who contributed two brand new compositions, the utterly complicated blues in C-major, “Relaxin’ At Camarillo”, and the lesser known, easier blues in E-flat, “Carvin’ The Bird”), Wardell Gray, alongside Dexter Gordon the first boppin’ tenor man, Howard McGhee, who penned “Cheers” and “Stupendous”, pianist Dodo Marmarosa, who comprovised the ultra-modern intro to “Relaxin’ At Camarillo” on the spot (it sounds actually 10 years ahead of its time), the imaginative Barney Kessel on guitar, bassist Red Callender & Don Lamond on drums.

Here come the master takes of “Relaxin’ At Camarillo”, “Cheers”, “Carvin’ The Bird” & “Stupendous”, and a couple of more tracks in a row:

Our today’s hero, Mr. Howard McGhee, may have the last word. The track stems from one of his later recordings, “Maggie’s Back In Town”, a through and through lovely LP, containing solid, slightly modalized bebop sounds by a wiser Howard McGhee in his best years.

Howard McGhee (tp) Phineas Newborn, Jr. (p) Leroy Vinnegar (b) Shelly Manne (d) – Contemporary Records, Los Angeles, CA June 26, 1961.

Posted in 1942, 1946, 1961, Avantgarde, Bebop, Dedication, Howard McGhee | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


There is a war going on. We musicians can only blow louder, and harder. Music is our weapon. For us, there is no other way.

Paris is everywhere. We are all Parisians today. Let’s fight those terrorist lowlives!

Posted in Jazz Stories & Tales | Tagged ,


ART FARMEROne of my favorite trumpet, respectively flugelhorn albums is To Sweden With Love (1964) by the Art Farmer Quartet, starring Jim Hall on guitar, Steve Swallow on acoustic bass, and the late Pete LaRoca on drums (Pete left us on November 19, 2012).

Now, what have the sad eyes of Johanna Sällström to do with this album? — I was kinda shocked when I learned during the 2nd week of our Easter Holidays (2013) that “Linda Wallander”, respectively Johanna Sällström had committed suicide as early as 2007. I’ve enjoyed watching her in some of Henning Mankell’s “Wallander’s” on German TV recently, and so I eventually looked her up, and learned the sad story.


She was such a talented actress, a real Swedish shooting star. But before I knew about her untimely passing, it didn’t escape my notice that there was a deep melancholy in her expression, in her way of acting as Wallander’s daughter (Johanna Sällström participated in 13 episodes of Wallander between 2005 and 2006).

Some days later I had an inspiration for a dedication piece for Johanna, a slow waltz which I entitled “The Sad Eyes Of Johanna Sällström” (pictured below). If Art Farmer were still alive, I would have gladly handed it over to him; because, when I wrote this little melody in F minor, the sound, the overall atmosphere of “To Sweden With Love” resonated in my inner ear. — My subconsciousness has also added bits, or rather remote remembrances of Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg (although he was Norwegian).

I will provide the sound to the notes as soon as I find the time to make a recording (OK, you see, although we played it quite often, it needed some time to load it up).

Now, just enjoy what my dear fellow jazz blogger Doug Ramsey called “a masterpiece”: “De Salde Sina Hemman” (“They Sold Their Homestead”). — What I love at this particular track is the inner fire, the passion of Art Farmer’s sound, and the congenial accompaniment of the “rhythm section”. It’s all so beautifully balanced, and it sounds so seemingly simple and effortless.

I could tirelessly listen to it again, and again.

Hope you will sympathize with my enthusiasm.


Posted in Dedication, Jazz Waltz, Loneliness, Love, Sadness, Tsunami | Tagged , , , ,

Lovely LENA HORNE, my starting page when I’m going online…

LovelyLenaHorneFor privacy reasons I have erased the logo of my computer, and some other details.

Anyway, that’s what I see when I’m opening my browser: A youthful, a sparkling-eyed Lena Horne whose “HONEYSUCKLE ROSE” (1943) got indexed because sexy Lena stressed the word “suckle” slightly too sultry ;)

Well, she may not have been the jazziest of the song birdies, but she had guts.

She spent her whole life in stormy weathers, politically spoken, and this was also her signature song, which she delivered here as no one else could <3

Posted in Great American Songbook, Jazz Stories & Tales, World War II | Tagged , , ,

BREW LITE’s MADHATTAN FOUR on BIRD’s “BIG FOOT” — ‘Live’ @ Litho, October 16, 2010

Feel free to click to enlarge ;)

First a quote from my old blog:

Some of countless blues now, “Big Foot”, as broadcasted live from the Royal Roost on December 11, 1948. I was speechless when I heard Charlie’s solo for the very first time:

This is a hell of a line of eight bars, played in one breath, and ending on one tone, repeated nine times (if I counted correctly) but slowing down within the one-tone phrase; almost as if he was able to bend the time as he liked it.

There is more at it, I believe. It’s a sound, a picture, Bird was painting. And the best: You can’t write it down. Miles is on trumpet, Al Haig at the piano, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach are on bass, and drums.

Bird was not only able to bend the time, he could travel through it too. As others, and I have said it many times: Charlie Parker was not only deeply rooted in the tradition of jazz, he loved to listen to all kinds of music.

Now, here comes the original, with Charlie Parker (as) Miles Davis (tp) Al Haig (p) Tommy Potter (b) Max Roach (d) Symphony Sid Torin (ann; though not audible here) — ‘live’ from the Royal Roost, New York NY, December 11, 1948:



Bruno Leicht (tp) Martin Sasse (p) Christian Ramond (b) & Marcus Rieck (d), we do it now. — Sorry, but it’s kinda blindfold test up to minute 4:

Posted in Bebop, Blues in B-flat, Celebration, Jazz Stories & Tales | Tagged , , , , ,


This is a little imaginary suite, dedicated to Thelonious Monk’s paraphrase of Irving Berlin’s “BLUE SKIES” (clickety-click on the title to hear one of the earliest renditions, performed by Ben Selvin’s Knickerbockers, 1927).

Anyway, the tune could have remained a novelty bitty-ditty, a one-day-wonder, if its jazz qualities hadn’t been detected soon by numerous swing & jazz musicians in the 1930’s and ’40’s.

Let’s begin with one of the first boppish arrangements, whose introduction sounds already as it would belong to a Monk tune: “BLUE SKIES”.

It’s not Thelonious at the piano, but his greatest female influence, Mary Lou Williams, the famous pianist, composer and arranger of tunes like “ROLL ‘EM”, “WALKIN’ AND SWINGING”, “LITTLE JOE FROM CHICAGO”, or “ZONKY”.

This particular rendition stems from her legendary sessions for “Asch Records” (later “Folkways”), founded by Moses Asch, and featuring mostly folk music.MaryLouWilliams-AschRecordings_a

Mary Lou Williams (p) Bill Coleman (tp) Al Hall (b) – August 10, 1944.

And then Bud walked in, on November 21 in 1947 (OK, we know only this date, but – as in the case of “‘Round Midnight” (ca. 1939) – it could have been written some years earlier); this is its very first recording, featuring George Taitt (tp) Sahib Shihab (as) Thelonious Monk (p) Bob Paige (b) Art Blakey (d) – WOR Studios, NYC:

“IN WALKED BUD”.MaryLouWilliams_TheloniousMonk

You don’t want to miss this great tune, as performed by the Thelonious Monk Quartet in a tiny little jazz club, named “Five Spot”, do you?

— Well, you needn’t:

Johnny Griffin (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Ahmed Abdul-Malik (b) Roy Haynes (d) – “Five Spot”, NYC, on July 9 and August 7, 1958.

But what would a great melody be without lyrics, without a fabulous story attached? — Here we go with Jon Hendricks, telling his famous tale about Dizzy, and Monk, and then “suddenly in walked Bud, and then they got into something.” — And yeah, they surely did!

Thelonious Monk (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d) Jon Hendricks (voc) – Recorded for “Underground – Thelonious Monk” (sporting one of the most bizarre of all LP-covers), NYC, February 14, 1968.

And here we go with my two cents I would like to add as humbly as possible. It’s a reference, just a little Monkish melody that came to my mind in December 2014; and it has not much to do with “IN WALKED BUD”, more with “LITTLE ROOTIE TOOTIE”.

Since I’m not a pianist in the first place, please don’t mind me, hitting some clinkers ;)

Maybe Monk wouldn’t have walked out, but “WHO KNOWS”, as he always said? Anyway, Thelonious was and is always welcome; I’ve let him walk in ’round 32 years ago. And he is still a great inspiration up to this very day <3

Blog owner’s kind advice: For reading along the tune, feel free to click on the score; it will open in a new window.


Posted in All American Rhythm Section, Great American Songbook, Jazz Standard, Jazz Stories & Tales | Tagged , , , , , , , ,



My special thanks goes to Doug Ramsey for having reminded me of Charlie Parker’s 92nd anniversary three years ago.

Since I’m not too strong with such dates, I appreciate Doug’s (and everybody’s) reminder(s), and will gladly take the opportunity for a repost of this little article on one of Bird’s happiest, at the same time most enigmatic, and most famous compositions.

Since this article from February 12, 2011 is one of the most popular among the 34.500+ devoted readers of this blog, I will repost it here in its entirety, unaltered and boppin’.

Sincerely yours truly,


BIRD SAYS: “No! It’s ‘Klact-oveeders-tene’!”



…but only for the die-hard, mostly humorless, or fanatic Bird addicts, and followers:

This little essay is of course all in fun. Nevertheless could further reading damage your (narrow-minded) conception of (Bird’s) world.

Charlie Parker, and his life were not all tragic, nor was he a bebop desperado, or an uptight intellectual; no, he was a human being who loved to laugh, and to live, and to love.

You can study some of the more easily explainable reasons for his choice of titles at Marc Myers’ JazzWax once again, namely at the thread where jazz critic, and “ornithologist” Ira Gitler successfully has verified the origins of Bird’s often rather cryptic, and mysterious, sometimes just very comic titles.

Feel free to click on HERE

And so, we’ll all be fit to go on further now:

Main Theme – Part ‘A-1’

As a German, and big Charlie Parker fan, I’m fully informed about the true meaning, and origin of one of Bird’s most beautiful compositions, commonly known as “Klact-Oveeseds-Tene” (misprinted on earlier releases as ‘Klact-Oveedseds-Tene’):

It is Charlie Parker’s onomatopoetic way of saying — and now, sisters & brothers, hold your hats: ‘Klatschen – Auf Wiederseh’n!’ — Which is indeed “a sound”:

Clapping – See you! —> Klatschen (Klact) Auf (o) Wie (wee) dersehn (seds-tene).

Here’s an excerpt from the liners to Vol. 5, “Bird On Dial” (SPOTLITE-LP 105). Please click to enlarge:

(Side-note: Ross Russell’s book is very subjective and filled with inaccuracies, as Dizzy stated himself in a German TV show, when he was asked about “Bird Lives” by Mr. George Gruntz, the famous Swiss jazz orchestra leader: “That book is full of lies! – It’s all lies in this book!” — He was obviously very angry.

Diz abruptly started to warm up a second later, and wasn’t available for any questions anymore. Hank Jones played the piano then, and yours truly had watched the whole show live (in real time!) on TV.

“Dizzy Gillespie in concert” — Moderation: George Gruntz — Stadthalle Leonberg, 1987″ — ZDF Jazz Club.

It’s unfortunate that Clint Eastwood’s film Bird (1988) was founded almost solely on Mr. Russell’s book.)

Main Theme – Part ‘A-2’

Ken Vail is mentioning the theory of “Klact’s” highly probable origin in “Bird’s Diary” on page 33:

“Bird rarely bothered to name his compositions, but when Ross Russell later pressed for titles for this session Bird came up with an unexplained title for the second number which he wrote out on the back of a Three Deuces $2 minimum charge card – Klact-oveeseds-tene. Red Rodney maintains that Bird was dabbling with German. Klatschen – clap, applause; Auf wiederseh’n – goodbye.”

But there is more to that story:

Main Theme – Part ‘B’

If you compare Bird’s handwritten title (and it’s a proven fact that he himself has written this with his own hand), if you compare this title and the letter “s” with his “r’s” on another handwritten document (a letter to Ross Russell) you will notice that the letter, of which generations of fans, and critics, and scientists have believed it would be an “s”, is in fact an “r”.

So, let’s take the “Klact” like in “Klatsch(en)” as a given truth, and concentrate on the remaining syllables “oveereds-tene”:

Auf Wieder… —> o-veered… — …seh’n —> …s-tene.

Now, speak it out loudly, and a bit diffidently: “KLACT-OVEEREDS-TENE”, and you will hear the same what Charlie Parker heard when a German was clapping his hands, and said ‘see you’:

“Klatsch(en) – Auf Wiedersehen!”

Main Theme – Part ‘A-3’

Since some Anglo-American native speakers occasionally tend to scramble letters in German words:

“Oveered” would become “oveeder” which would so retransform to a completely logical “Auf Wieder…”

(Side-note: How often was my last name involved in this, and I had to read Mr. Liecht, instead of the correct “Leicht”?)


Both of Bird’s handwritten documents I am referring to can be compared here:

Miles Ahead: Klact-oveeseds-tene vs. Klact-oveereds-tene

The only recorded takes of Klact-oveereds-tene (a.k.a. Klact-oveeseds-tene) can be heard here:

Klact-Oveereds-Tene x 2 (feel free to clickety-click on play, and both takes will play)

Personnel, location & date: Miles Davis (tp) Charlie Parker (as) Duke Jordan (p) Tommy Potter (b) Max Roach (d) – WOR Studios, NYC, November 4, 1947

P.S. — If you would enlarge the screenshot of Bird’s handwritten title, you could possibly see that he overwrote the last type (which was originally a small “n”) with a small “e”; also typical for English speaking to say rather “Auf Widdersenn”, and not like we Germans “Auf Wiedersehn“, the first and the last syllable spoken out longer.

P.S. — BREW LITE’s MADHATTAN FOUR (the Berlin edition, July 2007) play their version of “KLACT-OVEEREDS-TENE”:

Posted in Birthday Party, Blogging is swell!, Dedication, Etymology | Tagged , | 2 Comments