Portrait de Noel McGhie

par Bernard Rancillac


Portrait de Noel McGhie par Bernard Rancillac, 1973 (C) Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais Acrylic painting on canvas, 130 x 195 cm Based on a photograph by Philippe Gras taken in Paris during the studio recording of the album Steve Lacy – The Gap

Portrait de Noel McGhie par Bernard Rancillac, 1973 (C) Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais Acrylic painting on canvas, 130 x 195 cm Based on a photograph by Philippe Gras taken in Paris during the studio recording of the album Steve Lacy – The Gap

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Although I never had the chops to take my own trumpet playing beyond an elementary level, listening to, learning about and soaking up good music has always been an important part of my life. This is one reason why I am particularly touched that Noel McGhie has agreed to grace my website with his playing and some of his own compositions to set the perfect tone for the presentation of my work. His drumming helps keep me in time, on time and all about the time, which is especially important since finding one’s rhythm is an important part of surviving in the world of academia. Thanks, Noel.


Born in Jamaica in 1944, Noel McGhie left the country at the age of 18 to first settle in England before his country gained full independence later that year (1962).

Noel plays jazz, blues and soul… He mostly listens to classical music… His influences on the drums are well-known to many: Roy Haynes, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Joe Morello… Rashied Ali impressed him greatly: “Back in the 60s when I was in my twenties, we weren’t trying to copy anything that already existed…” Noel McGhie quickly tuned towards new forms of music.

He studied music from 1964 to 1970, and in 1968, he was asked by the Drama Society at Oxford University to compose the music for two plays written by Fernando Arrabal: Picnic on the Battlefield and Guernica.

In 1971 he moved to France with his wife and two kids and deepened his study of percussion at the Conservatoire Municipal de Clichy. In Paris he worked his way up the music scene and rubbed shoulders with the best of the city’s musicians that had come to develop their art… and the great Steve Lacy came looking for him at the club Le Chat to ask him to join his band to further his musical development. They shared the stage together for three years.

Over the years, Noel has played with the likes of Archie Shepp, Franck Wright, Chico Freeman, Bobby Few, François Tusques, Steve Lacy, Byard Lancaster, Mal Waldron, Antony Braxton, Hal Singer (as a member of the Hal Singer All Stars in 1996 and 1997), Myriam Makeba, Rhoda Scott. Open to all musical adventures, Noel has produced and recorded with Colette Magny (1971), Marion Williams (1979) et Gil Evans (1978).

In 1979, he toured with Myriam Makeba (at the Nuremburg Open Air opening for The Who), and played with the Gospel Caravan at the théâtre de la porte St Martin and at the théâtre de Paris.
Noel McGhie teaches drums, and was an instructor at the IACP (l’Institut d’Art de Culture et de Perception) of Paris.
Currently, Noel is deep into composing and developing his new musical project with plans for its unveiling.

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Blue Suite (1998)
Track 1 – Les Amis d’Afrique

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Space Spies (1975) Track 2 – Trapeze Track 3 – Forgone Desillusion Track 4 – Mademoiselle Tulloch

Space Spies (1975)
Track 2 – Trapeze
Track 3 – Forgone Desillusion
Track 4 – Mademoiselle Tulloch

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Topolitologie (2010)
Track 5 – Non à la Profitation

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