Howard McGhee “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (1956)

Track Selection: “The Thrill has Gone” >


Howard McGhee (tp) Danny Bank, Phil Bonder, Sid Brown, Leon Cohen, Herbie Mann (sax) Donn Trenner (p) Al Caiola (g) Arnold Fishkin (b) Osie Johnson, Don Lamond (d) Frank Hunter (arr, dir) recorded NYC, February 14 & 15, 1956


An orchestral setting for McGhee’s distinctive trumpet, treading a narrow path between jazz and Fifties Hollywood music score. Consisting entirely of familiar standards and a little sacharin at times, it nevertheless has its moments, and you could be forgiven for thinking you had somehow been transported back in time to the Nineteen Fifties. Best listened to in period Black and White, or at least, Cinemascope and Eastman Colour, with your favourite popcorn.

I recommend you persevere and will be rewarded at around one minute forty as the improvisation kicks in. McGhee has a wonderful trumpet voice, the more of which I hear the more it grows on me. More McGhee will follow in future posts, resistance is useless.


McGhee is an excellent jazz trumpeter best known for his Felsted alternate score to Freddie Redd’s Music from the Connection featuring Tina Brooks (bow down and worship at merest mention of Tina). Released in the US originally on Bethlehem, the UK London generally label their jazz releases under the title “American Jazz Recordings”, so the “American Series” title here reveals their ambiguity about this recording. Jazz, or just “American”? Bethlehem’s catalogue is similarly ambiguous, mixing jazz releases with the more mainstream. A great pressing by Decca, as always.

Collectors Corner

No doubt McGhee is collectible, with his Ultra-rare Felsted “Connection”, and “Maggies Back” title in demand and his outstanding “Dusty Blues” album on Bethlehem is to die for, recently fetching a considerable sum on eBay as a great Bethlehem rarity. Bowl of Cherries, with its combination of standards and orchestral score, is unsurprisingly less collectable, but an interesting excursion into the Fifties zeitgeist, and a relatively inexpensive find on eBay.

The cover is very distinctive and I have seen a Bethlehem original that was pristine, with price to match at £100, which was something of a beauty. This well-thumbed copy showing the marks of time , nevertheless, the cover is iconic, and the auction price was pushed up way past what I expected for a UK pressing. It is collectible.

1 thought on “Howard McGhee “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (1956)

  1. Pingback: Howard McGhee – Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries (1956) {2014 Japanese Bethlehem Album Collection 1000}

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