Rapt attention

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Gary McFarland

McFarland was a brilliant vibraphonist and arranger whose career was cut short in a sordid tale of intrigue and possibly murder.  He worked with such luminaries as Bill Evans, Zoot Sims, Gabor Szabo and Gerry Mulligan.

There is a documentary of his life that was created by a fan. I have not yet seen it. His voice on this track knocked me out the first time I heard it and still knocks me out to this day. He had something different.
McFarland’s demise in 1971 was shocking and strange: a recovering alcoholic, he and a couple of friends went for a drink in a New York bar after a recording session. While there he and two other men were slipped drinks by Mason Hoffenberg, co-author of the book Candy, that were laced with liquid methadone. He suffered a heart attack that killed him pretty much instantly: another of the victims died three days later in hospital. The third man, the bartender, was violently ill but eventually recovered. One of McFarland’s brothers suggests in the film that the bar was protected by the Mob, so no enquiry was held.

Hoffenberg told a different story

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