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Mark Stryker

Jackie McLean's Post-1975 Recordings (All Labels)

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Might as well finish out the story, right? After the SteepleChase years comes lots of stuff for lots of labels domestic and foreign, ranging from pick-up studio dates with peers, reunions, concert performances, working bands with mostly young cats. Generally, Jackie's chops are much stronger during these years, and there's a marked increase in his authority both technically and conceptually, especially in the late 80s and 90s on Triloka and Birdology.

"Dynasty" (Triloka) is as great as anything Jackie ever recorded, a real synthesis of all the ideas and styles (bebop, modal, inside-out expressionism, multi-horn front lines, compositions and arrangements) he was associated with throughout his career. The follow-up on Triloka, "Rites of Passage," isn't quite on the same level but it's still strong. I also really like the Birdology discs, especially "Rhythm of the Earth" but also "Fire and Love" and "The Jackie Mac Attack Live" -- all of which conceptually descend from "Dynasty." Going back to the late '70s, I've always been fond of the bebop/standards date with the Great Jazz Trio (reunion with Tony Williams).

Interested to hear other folks opinions, especially of the harder to find Japanese things and any bootlegs that might be out there....

Edited by Mark Stryker

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New Wine was one of the first Jackie albums I heard; I always liked it, though now think there are stronger versions of these tunes elsewhere. Hat Trick is really good, as is his last album, Nature Boy.

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4629990.jpg

076581.jpg

These two Waldron/McLean album are good. The Victor/JVC was released in 1976.

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This one was dredged up from the deepest pits of musical hell:

mclean_jack_monuments_101b.jpg

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My perhaps erroneous impression, though it was the one I had at the time, was that post 1975 much of the emotional air, or the push, was somewhat mysteriously gone from McLean's music, even though all the familiar stylistic gestures were still in place. It's as though he had begun to sound like a disciple of himself. In any case, rightly or wrongly, I lost interest, pretty much stopped listening.

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probably had too high expectations when buying this as new release in the 80s and was left disappointed...the combo with Mal Waldron (IMO) didn`t work here, Herbie Lewis seemed a bit stiff and the production was somehow "punchless"....

Edited by soulpope

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My perhaps erroneous impression, though it was the one I had at the time, was that post 1975 much of the emotional air, or the push, was somewhat mysteriously gone from McLean's music, even though all the familiar stylistic gestures were still in place. It's as though he had begun to sound like a disciple of himself. In any case, rightly or wrongly, I lost interest, pretty much stopped listening.

Strongly recommend you find a copy of "Dynasty" (Amazon has used copies from $2.33). If it doesn't force a revision of opinion, I'll personally refund your money. From there you might try "Jackie Mac Attack," a live quartet performance whose intensity combined with the sound-board recording gives it an especially raw urgency.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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076581.jpg

These two Waldron/McLean album are good. The Victor/JVC was released in 1976.

Like this recording from 1976 a lot, great interplay and a supertight Waldron+Suzuki+Higgins rhythm section.....

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This one was dredged up from the deepest pits of musical hell:

mclean_jack_monuments_101b.jpg

OK, so this LP gets shit on a lot, and I get it ... it's of its time and parts are pretty awful. Still, I remember an interview with Jackie at the time this came out in Down Beat in which he's very frank about trying to aim for commercial airplay. So it is what it is.But I have to say, I always found this track quite emotionally affecting -- the narration is heartfelt, Jackie's horn sounds like Jackie's horn, and I even like the background vocals. Your mileage may vary (and probably does), but this track means something to me -- I'm not even quite sure what exactly it means or why it gets to me, but I hear the poignancy and am glad to have been moved. Maybe it's partly a meta-thing: Like Jackie McLean reaching middle age and living in a culture with ears of stone and having to make a commercial record because America doesn't get it and won't reward the "real" Jackie McLean -- I mean, that's some sad, damning shit right there. But even on a fundamental musical level I dig this cut as is, the modernist cultural critiques aside.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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This one was dredged up from the deepest pits of musical hell:

mclean_jack_monuments_101b.jpg

OK, so this LP gets shit on a lot, and I get it ... it's of its time and parts are pretty awful. Still, I remember an interview with Jackie at the time this came out in Down Beat in which he's very frank about trying to aim for commercial airplay. So it is what it is.But I have to say, I always found this track quite emotionally affecting -- the narration is heartfelt, Jackie's horn sounds like Jackie's horn, and I even like the background vocals. Your mileage may vary (and probably does), but this track means something to me -- I'm not even quite sure what exactly it mean or why it gets to me, but I hear the poignancy and am glad to have been moved. Maybe it's partly a meta-thing: Like Jackie McLean reaching middle age and living in a culture with ears of stone and having to make a commercial record because America doesn't get it and won't reward the "real" Jackie McLean. But even on a fundamental musical level I dig this cut as is.

Yeah, that cut got to me too.

The rest of the record, I've tried for years to get traction on any sort of emotional tirade against evilness, and the best/only thing I can do is that's it's just not a very good record, period, that Jackie could have had a better record of that type made for him, it just didn't happen, didn't get the right people, the right direction, not evil, just bad.

Also, put me in for Nature Boy. There's some tear-jerkers on that one.

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man, I've always shied away from that record, but that particular track is really cool in its own way. Love the narration and the chorus. I guess I have more of an appreciation for stuff that's simpler - or at least more gut-level - nowadays.

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In later years he could still be a power in person. I remember when he came to Chicago with a Benny Golson folio and, accompanied I recall with a Chicago rhythm section, played nothing but Golson songs all week.

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I could be wrong, but something tells me he is playing, in those later years, a newer horn like a Yamaha; this is based on that buzzy sound. Which is, to my ears, not as interesting as his earlier sound.

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From Dynasty:

That track from "Dynasty" pretty much epitomizes what began to turn me off in latter-day McLean. The whole JMc vocabulary is there, but it is -- so to speak and IMO -- now all vocabulary, a series of assembled gestures and tropes. Yes, they're his gestures and tropes and hard won over time, but the feeling I get is that now they've become too familiar, too known to him; the formerly near-omnipresent and often quite astonishing immediacy of his playing is not there or not there as much as it once was. It's kind of like "professional" Jackie McLean, and professional Jackie McLean I don't need. One specific sign of what I'm talking about -- if I'm not blowing this out of my ass -- is that this solo from "Dynasty" is more or less seamless, one externally emotive figure pretty much neatly flowing into the next (yes, I know that "externally" presumes a great deal, but that how it hits me by contrast with all the McLean I love)). By contrast, I just listened on YouTube to "Melody for Melonae" from "Let Freedom Ring," which might be an unfair test. Even so, leaving aside everything else, what I couldn't help but notice was how much air, how many meaningful hesitations, how much "groping" and reaching there is in that solo -- which is (I would say of necessity) often un-seamless from moment to moment (e.g. those freak-register screams) but an ultimately coherent quest.

OK, that's the word I've been groping for -- "quest." McLean marshaling his own hard-won personal vocabulary of quest but no longer embarked on a quest.... The same reason so much McLean means so much to me is the reason a lot of latter-day McLean doesn't.

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I think we can say that most great musicians are questing, and once they achieve a measure of success then that feeling of the quest largely vanishes. That explains for me why there is very little Bruce Springsteen of the past 30 years that appeals to me--he usually sounds like a parody of himself. It's no easy thing for artists like Bob Dylan and Sonny Rollins to continue to operate at peak energy and creativity (arguably Dylan has done it better than Sonny).

Yet most latter-day Van Morrison is fantastic.

But bottom line, never cross a great artist off your list. And I have to say that I personally find McLean's Nature Boy a fabulous swan song.

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I think we can say that most great musicians are questing, and once they achieve a measure of success then that feeling of the quest largely vanishes. That explains for me why there is very little Bruce Springsteen of the past 30 years that appeals to me--he usually sounds like a parody of himself. It's no easy thing for artists like Bob Dylan and Sonny Rollins to continue to operate at peak energy and creativity (arguably Dylan has done it better than Sonny).

Yet most latter-day Van Morrison is fantastic.

But bottom line, never cross a great artist off your list. And I have to say that I personally find McLean's Nature Boy a fabulous swan song.

But what I think of as questing in McLean is IMO so essential to the life of his music. By contrast -- but maybe not by contrast -- I think of Johnny Hodges, who so often is telling us much the same stories he has told us before, and using the same vocabulary he has used before. And yet very seldom do I feel that this compromises the life of a Hodges solo. I could try to expound on this difference, but for the moment let's just say that the nature and location of the life force of McLean's music is other than the nature and location of Hodges'.

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...professional Jackie McLean I don't need.

Maybe he needed it.

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...professional Jackie McLean I don't need.

Maybe he needed it.

OK

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Excellent discussion.

Now I might know why I've never been able to listen to latter day Jackie McLean

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...professional Jackie McLean I don't need.

Maybe he needed it.

Jim, please explain for the benefit if us non-musicians. Needed it artistically? Financially? Professionally? In terms of legacy? BTW, I agree with what Larry hears in the late McLean. It all sounds fine, but I never find myself going back to it. In contrast,I play later Billy Harper through about 2000 as much as I do his earlier recordings.

I think we can say that most great musicians are questing, and once they achieve a measure of success then that feeling of the quest largely vanishes. That explains for me why there is very little Bruce Springsteen of the past 30 years that appeals to me--he usually sounds like a parody of himself.

Yes. Fot a long time Springsteen still brought it live even though the studio material was lame, but based on the last concert DVD, even the live shows seem to have lost the magic.

Edited by felser

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As in, ok, you lived your live one way for a long time, not necessarily the way you wanted to, but, you know, and then finally a chance comes along to not be in a perpetual state of panic/uncertainty, you can live like a "normal person", or at least your best facsimile of one, and ok, probably coulda have happened some other way in some other time, but it didn't, so, why not?

Indeed, why not. So you get away from the panic/uncertainty and maybe your "art" "loses" something. Big fucking deal, you're alive doing good work in another world, passing it on, and maybe not everybody who got off on your personal struggle being translated into music keeps buying your records. "Professional" Jackie McLean sounds like somebody who's no longer in a panic, so...thrills to be had elsewhere for those who are looking for that kind of thing. In the meantime, survival is boring once you start taking it for granted?

Who gives a damn for losers? Jazz fans! But they don't love a winner, especially when he's thinner.

Having said that...yeah, sure, later McLean does not, in generally, rip your balls off. And I have been relatively casual about acquiring the catalog. But I have acquired it, and I can't really say that my reaction to any of it has been some variant of, oh, Jackie's got his life together, fuck what that sounds like, gotta run, you understand, call me if you ever get fucked up again.. I'm just like, hey, J-Mac, glad you made it, nice to hear from you, Stay strong, ok? And then, later, RIP, much love and just as much thanks.

Or are we saying that the only merit in McLean's playing has ever been the element of it that was driven by personal problems? If so, then he was fatally flawed as an artist and did us all a disservice by continuing to live and record. In that case, hey, fuck him, the selfish prick.

Sometimes - sometimes - I think that "jazz fans" are jazz fans because they're too chickenshit to take the beating themselves.

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