George Cables is a superb pianist, an outstanding composer with a real gift for melody. He was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Queens. He started piano in grade school, and liked taking traditional lessons and studying classical music right away.
“I did like the piano. I had a crush on my piano teacher,” he said.
Cables studied classical piano at the Manhattan High School for the Performing Arts, and found a way to incorporate jazz into his afternoon commute home.
“So I had to take a subway and then a bus. So I get off the subway to get the bus, and the pizza joint there — I’d stop in and there was a jukebox in this place,” he said. “The only thing that was remotely close to jazz was a Wynton Kelly cut called ‘Little Tracy’, with a little calypso. And I loved that; I played it every day.”
As soon as Cables turned 18 years old, and a little before, he would go to The Five Spot, a lot.
“I could see Thelonious Monk, and in those days he was there maybe four or five or six months at a time,” Cables said. “And, actually, was a double bill. I might see Mose Allison playing opposite him.”
At nineteen Cables got in a neighborhood band with drummer Billy Cobham, the Jazz Samaritans.
“The first few pieces I ever wrote I wrote for that group,” he said. “That was important for me.”
At Jazz Fest George Cables will play with The Cookers, featuring drummer Billy Hart, bassist Cecil McBee, a great horn line, and dedication to high-energy performance.
“This is an important thing,” Cables said. “This is what we’ve done all our lives, and it’s not just making a living. It’s what we do and who we are.”
George Cables and The Cookers play Jazz Fest Friday, May 3.