Friday, April 1, 2011


Yesterday, Harold, I watched a 30 minute video on You Tube titled Harold McKinney Jazz Master. Radio personality Nkenge Zola interviewed you. You talked about your childhood. Then you explained how you conceptualize music, and the science of improvising. The video reminded me of our interview in 1997 for the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper.

Do you remember our conversation? I used  to attend your Detroit Jazz Heritage Performance Lab workshop at the SereNgeti Ballroom Thursday nights.  I was the fellow seated at the back table writing in a reporters notebook.

I watched you coach jazz musicians of various ages and levels of talent. You charged them $10.00 per workshop, which was a bargain. Saxophonists, drummers, pianists, trumpeters, vocalists, and even non-musicians were welcomed.Surprisingly, there were more female singers than instrumentalists. You coached pianists how to accompany singers properly.   

The late pianist Harold McKinney
“You have force her to reach or else she’s going to be self-conscious. I want something underneath her. Build her. Let me hear you articulate every note, “I recall you telling a 16-year-old pianist. When you felt your students were ready, they performed in your annual concert “Jammin’ for Bread”. I asked why you named it that. “Musicians--jazz musicians particularly-- have to jam for their livelihood,” you explained. 

You agreed to an interview you. The Metrotimes wanted me to write about how accomplished Detroit jazz musicians such as Donald Walden, Teddy Harris Jr., and Marcus Belgrave mentored young talent. my editor said the piece would be called: “The Detroit Way: The Masters raise a new generation of jazz musicians”. It was my first article for the newspaper. The interview took place in your living room, and I picked your brain for an hour.

 Weeks later, we had another conversation inside your green Volvo station wagon before the article’s photo shoot. You munched on humus and pita bread. You asked me to include your twin daughters Sienna and Jore in the article. They were good trumpeters and a big part of your weekly workshop.   

By the way, I talked to your daughter, GayeLynn, in November at the Harbor House. She performed with bassist Ralphe Armstrong and vocalist Kimmie Horne. At intermission, GayeLynn told me she planned to raise  some money.  She wants to record an album of your originals. If I were rich, I would bankroll her project.

The “Harold McKinney Jazz Master” video brought back some good memories of the time I spent interviewing you, and hanging out at your workshop, wishing I had some musical talent. I learned a lot about jazz at those Thursday night sessions.  My $10.00 was well spent. Unfortunately, after you died, no one continued the workshop. 

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