Two American Classics: Jazz and Cecil McBee

by Victoria Aschheim

Listening to his album Unspoken, it is clear why virtuoso double bassist, Cecil McBee, is described as "a full-toned bassist who creates rich, singing phrases in a wide range of contemporary jazz contexts," and as "one of post-bop's most advanced and versatile bassists."

McBee, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and an inductee in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1991, is a Visiting Artist in the Office for the Arts at Harvard's Learning from Performers program. He will be featured in "A Conversation with Cecil McBee," moderated by Tom Everett, Director of Harvard Jazz Bands, today, Friday, November 5 at 3:00 p.m. at New College Theatre studio, 10-12 Holyoke Street, Cambridge. Admission to this event is free.

The Harvard Jazz Bands and the OFA honor the memory of Milt Hinton (1910-2000), "dean of bass players" and gifted photographer, with a concert, "Walking the Bass Line: A Tribute to Milt Hinton." The concert features the Harvard Jazz Bands and guest artist, Cecil McBee at Lowell Lecture Hall at Kirkland and Oxford Streets. Tickets to the concert are $10, students and seniors $8, available at the Harvard Box Office (617-496-2222).

An exhibition of Milt Hinton's photographs, sponsored by Harvard Real Estate, will be on display through December 8 at the Holyoke Center Arcade Exhibition Space. (Opening reception for the photography exhibit is on Friday, November 5 at 5 p.m.).

In advance of this spirited trilogy of jazz events at Harvard beginning today, hear Cecil McBee discuss the social history of jazz as well as innovations in style and and musical language that have both shaped him and to which he has mightily contributed.


Part 2 of the interview with Cecil McBee

Quick bio: McBee was born in Tulsa, OK, in 1935 and later served in the U.S. Army where he spent two years as a member of the 158th Army Band at Fort Knox, advancing to conductor of the Band. After his service, McBee went to Detroit, then a vibrant jazz center, and got his professional start with the Paul Winter Sextet. His work continued in New York and around the world where McBee performed and recorded with artists such as Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Keith Jarrett, Yusef Lateef, Dinah Washington, Woody Shaw, Chet Baker, Sunny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Benny Goodman, Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter, Dave Liebman, and Alice Coltrane. He established his own musical group in 1975 which received high praise. The recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts composition grants, and the winner of a 1989 Grammy for his performance of "Blues for John Coltrane," McBee is a member of the faculty of New England Conservatory.