Harold Mabern

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Just over 40 years ago, Joseph Jarman published a book of poetry that opens with a chant: "we pray o God / for the ego / death." Jarman, a visionary saxophonist and composer, was writing mainly about transcendence of the self. But he keenly understood the power of a collective, which presses each individual into the service of a greater whole.

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Harold Mabern, a pianist of percussive fire and boundless soul, with a language that pulled from hard bop, post-bop, Memphis soul and the blues, died on Sept. 17 in New Jersey. He was 83.

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Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

Saxophonist Eric Alexander wrote the tune "Iron Man"as a salute to Harold Mabern. It's one of 10 tracks on that Memphis-born pianist's new recording, To Love And Be Loved.

The album features Mabern with Alexander, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, bassist Nat Reeves and percussionist Cyro Baptista. It also reunites the pianist with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb; these two giants played together briefly in Miles Davis' band in 1963.