Howard McGhee: The Return of (1955) Bethlehem/ London

Track Selection: Get Happy


Howard McGhee (tp) Sahib Shihab (bars, as) Duke Jordan (p) Percy Heath (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) recorded NYC, October 22, 1955.  From the title, recorded after one of McGhees not infrequent releases from the Penitentary on narcotics charges.


Howard McGhee is a wonderful agile soloist, a model for the younger Kenny Dorham. Sharing the spotlight with McGhee is Sahib Shihab on baritone sax, what more can you ask? Lots of baritone solos, and few on alto for variety, Sahib’s presence is not to be overlooked. That angry baritone rasp is so compelling – both Sahib and Pepper Adams showed what could be achieved with this weighty length of brass plumbing if you played it as though it was a tenor or indeed alto, and just ran with the changes, Charlie Parker on steroids.

Duke Jordan’s solid chordal foundations, embellished with glittering runs, is always pushing the tempo along, with “Philly Joe” and Percy Heath picking up any slack. Bop of a very high order from the post-swing cauldron that was 1955.

Vinyl: London LTZ-N.15011

Crimson/silver labels, UK release of Bethlehem BCP 042

Dependable Decca pressing in the London “American Jazz Recordings” series. In the absence of any other distribution arrangement in the UK, Decca’s London Label mastered and pressed this excellent record for Bethlehem.

Cover art superlative atmospheric Black and White photography, firmly rooted in its time, long before “retro”, enhanced by the immensely photogenic smoke trail of tobacco that found its way onto  many record sleeves. Smoking is permitted while the record is in motion, though, e pericoloso sporgersi : 

it can be dangerous to lean out.

Interesting, ABL, different initials to the usual Decca one, and the matrix is drilled rather than stamped. Very early production in the LTZ 15000 series, number 11.

Collectors Corner

A “Buy it now/make an offer” bearing the description was that it had “a few marks which affect play”. Alerted by the slightly odd grammar, the seller acknowledged it was a typo,  having meant “marks which don’t affect play”. One of those fortuitous mistakes which can work to your advantage.

It had also had not one but two offers which had both been rejected, meaning “don’t insult me, I am a professional, I know this is a rare record and what it is worth, and I am not desperate to sell”

The internet is open to all sorts of people who do not conduct their business respectfully. When previously in business my partners from the middle east taught me their rules of bargaining in the Souk, which were a way of life for them.”If he asks ten, he would like eight but would accept six, so it is probably worth four, so you offer him two”. This might work in the Souk, but not on an eBay rare collectible record.

An offer of 80% recognised you both understand the value of this record, and the only difference between you is a small gap on the price, which can be accommodated. This secured immediate acceptance. And turns put he was right. The marks do not affect play.

(Photos updated November 10, 2017)

8 thoughts on “Howard McGhee: The Return of (1955) Bethlehem/ London

  1. Very nice song indeed – haven’t heard this before 😉
    Have to get it somehow.
    But I wonder why they write Duke Jordan as Duke Jordon on the cover. I guess a jazz lover did not do the back cover typo!?
    Lovely picture too 😉


  2. once more on Bethlehem!
    this label is considered 100% jazz, the only one in the whole production.
    maggie is 6 years older than kenny and came in prominence before him: have you heard his dial 1946-47 recordings?


  3. Nice fast paced rendition of “Get Happy”. And hey, don’t we all agree when I say that this cover photo looks very similar to the one of Hank Mobley for the legendary 1568?


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