Howard McGhee

Howard McGhee (March 6, 1918 – July 17, 1987) was one of the first bebop jazz trumpeters, with Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro and Idrees Sulieman. He was known for his fast fingers and very high notes. What is generally not known is the influence that he had on younger hard bop trumpeters, with Fats Navarro.

Howard McGhee
Rochester, New York, 1976
Background information
Born(1918-03-06)March 6, 1918
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedJuly 17, 1987(1987-07-17) (aged 69)
New York City, New York
Associated actsLionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, Count Basie


Howard McGhee was raised in Detroit, Michigan. During his career, he played in bands led by Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, Count Basie and Charlie Barnet. He was in a club listening to the radio when he first heard Parker and was one of the early adopters of the new style, a fact that was disapproved by older musicians like Kid Ory.

In 1946–47, some record sessions for the new label Dial were organized at Hollywood with Charlie Parker and the Howard McGhee combo. The first was held on July 29, 1946. The musicians were Charlie Parker, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Bunn , Bob Kesterson, and Roy Porter. With Parker close to a nervous breakdown, he played "Max is Making Wax", "Lover Man", and "The Gypsy".[1]

McGhee continued to work as a sideman for Parker. He played on titles like "Relaxin' at Camarillo", "Cheers", "Carvin the Bird" and "Stupendous". Around this time, McGhee "was a central figure in the Los Angeles bebop world, taking part in numerous concerts, recording, and even running a night club for a time".[1] His stay in California was cut short because of racial prejudice, particularly vicious towards McGhee as half of a mixed-race couple.[2]

Drug problems sidelined McGhee for much of the 1950s, but he resurfaced in the 1960s, appearing in many George Wein productions. His career sputtered again in the mid-1960s and he did not record again until 1976. He led one of three big jazz bands trying to succeed in New York in the late 1960s. While the band did not survive, a recording was released in the mid-1970s.

He taught music through the 1970s, both in classrooms and at his apartment in midtown Manhattan and instructed musicians like Charlie Rouse in music theory. He was as much an accomplished composer-arranger as he was a performer.

McGhee died on July 17, 1987 at the age of 69, a memorial service was held for him on July 24, 1987[3]


As leader/co-leader

As sideman

With Lorez Alexandria

With Johnny Hartman

With Georgie Auld

  • Rainbow Mist (Delmark, 1944 [1992]) compilation of Apollo recordings

With Tubby Hayes

  • 1957 Changing the Jazz at Buckingham Palace, Tubby Hayes/Dizzy Reece
  • 1957 The Swinging Giant Vol. 2

With Coleman Hawkins

With Chubby Jackson

  • 1950 Chubby Jackson All Star Big Band
  • 1969 Chubby Jackson Sextet and Big Band

With James Moody

With André Previn

  • 1946 André Previn All-Stars
  • 1975 Previn at Sunset

With Mel Tormé

  • 1956 George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Frances Faye/Mel Tormé
  • 1957 At the Crescendo
  • 1957 Songs for Any Taste

With others


  1. Owens, Thomas (1996). Bebop. Los Angeles Berkeley: Oxford University Press. p. 108.
  2. Barron, Stephanie (2000). Reading California : art, image, and identity, 1900-2000. Los Angeles Berkeley: Los Angeles County Museum of Art University of California Press. ISBN 0520227670.
  3. Palmer, Robert (July 18, 1987). "Howard McGhee, 69, Is Dead; A Trumpeter and Composer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  4. "Howard McGhee | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved July 24, 2017.

Further reading

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