Archives: March 2021

  • New songs for 2021: Cecil McBee

    I've known Cecil McBee for a long time, and I've always greatly admired his bass playing. In the past, Cecil was the bass player on several albums that are important to me, that I arranged and produced: Charlie Rouse's "Social Call" and Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw's "Double Take."

    At that time, I didn't know that composing music was Cecil's real passion. If fact, it wasn't until we had a lengthy discussion in the parking lot of the Van Gelder Recording Studio, with our masks on during covid times, waiting for the other musicians to arrive, that I discovered his devotion to composing. I immediately started checking out his music and realized that he is a major composer.

    Cecil’s compositions are extremely diverse, ranging from lyrical, romantic ballads to advanced avant-garde workouts. We’re kicking things off with three of his most accessible and most recorded songs. "D" Bass-ic Blues is just what the title says: a bass-driven blues head in D minor, which appears on recordings by pianists John Hicks, Stanley Cowell, and Larry Willis. Close To You Alone is a tender ballad that’s been recorded in a variety of settings and arrangements; we have bass transcriptions of Cecil from several versions. The second ballad, the wistful Song Of Her, is Cecil’s classic early composition, which he first recorded with saxophonist Charles Lloyd in 1966 on Lloyd's important "Forest Flower" album.

    Some of his early bass recordings already on jazzleadsheets find him in the rhythm section between Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams (Thandiwa - Grachan Moncur III) and on Dee Blues and Promise (Charles McPherson).

    Cecil’s wife, singer Verena McBee, is also a talented lyricist and has written lyrics to many of Cecil's songs. Just Close To You Alone and Thoughts Of Her are her lyric versions of Close To You Alone and Song Of Her, respectively.

    Enjoy learning and playing music by Cecil McBee. There's more to come!

    Don Sickler

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