Harold Mabern, Eric Alexander, John Webber, and Joe Farnsworth performed in McNeill Concert Hall at Rhodes College on Friday, April 6, 2018. A Memphis native, Mabern is a graduate of Manassas High School where he was classmates with George Coleman, Charles Lloyd, and Booker Little. He is a true living jazz legend, a keeper of the flame of Memphis jazz, and Memphis is proud to claim him.

The Rhodes Jazz Band had the opportunity to perform as the opening act and also visit with Mabern and his band before their performance. Sydney Sorrell ‘19 enjoyed the experience as a singer in the band because “it was inspiring to see how knowledgeable and passionate they are about the music they play. It was really cool to interact with and learn from someone you look up to so much.” Although the night was gloomy and rainy, the Rhodes Jazz Band started off the night with many vocal and instrumental selections of Latin Jazz that brought up the energy of the room and made the audience forget about the dismal weather outside.

After the jazz band finished their set, Dr. John Bass introduced Mabern and awarded him a Beale Street Brass Note. The Curb Institute has sponsored Brass Notes for other iconic Memphis musicians like George Coleman, Charles Lloyd, and Emerson Able. Mabern accepted the award, reminisced on past performances with jazz players, and advocated for the importance of Memphis musicians in music history in general, and specifically his mentor Phineas Newborn, Jr.

Once the Mabern Quartet started playing, the audience was swept up with their passionate playing and artistry. Marcus Tate ‘19 found it hard to explain the effect the quartet had on the audience: “There are literally no words that can describe the soul, sound, and passion that went on that night.” Dr. Bass noted, “I have never seen nine foot grand pianos shake the way they do when he plays them, and he sends that energy and emotion into the audience! It is an amazing thing to witness and I am always grateful to be able to hear him.” The whole audience seemed to be filled with gratitude that night for such passionate and heartfelt music-making in celebration of Memphis jazz.

Text by Sarah Johnson