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Jackie McLean's 1960's Blue Note Recordings


Tom 1960
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This is a real Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs album, with one session recorded at the old studio and the other at the new. I wasn't aware of this and just saw it. Plus there's Tina Brooks, a man I like a lot, on the second session. I was hungry today for some McLean.

Street Singer (BN King) has elements of this album plus some other tracks which IRCC completes the session with Brooks. On the whole I think Street Singer seems to hold together better than Jackie's Bag.

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Listened today to some CDs who maybe some don't amount to jackies best 60's work, but I put on swing swang swingin ( ha, the only jmac my wife at the time found listenable) tippin' n consequence, and although they didn't knock me sideways, I certainly did enjoy them for what they're worth: the progression of a man trying a sort of styles that ultimately sounded like Jackie n no one else. And that is whats so enjoyable is that no matter the project it was his project. Reid miles adds to the excitement too, his album covers of the period were the sense of urgency: get this record now!!! Glad to own of his what I have. Yup to hipnosis n hi frequency as single disc reissues....

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I think the first J-Mac albums I heard were, in sequence, Jackie's Bag, Destination...OUT!, Bluesnik, and "Let Freedom Ring". All of them gut-grabbingly intense listens, but only Destination...OUT! sounding really settled, like the search ends and goes forth from here. Not how it happened, as it turns out, but the McLean/Moncur pairing was, and remains, magic to me.

However - the title tune of Bluesnik...that head is so deliberately reductionist, like could you really break it down any more than taht,no, don't think so,left a totally wide-open canvas upon which to paint, and listening to Jackie's back and forth, his internal monologue if you will, going one place and then all of a sudden catching himself, breaking it off and immediately taking it somewhere else, to me, that's not necessarily a "perfect jazz solo" but it's about as bared-bones a look at wheels-turning in real time as anything out there. And the way Freddie takes the handoff, you can tell that all of Jackie's darting about was getting Freddie primed to jump in and get going.

All the best BN records had that sense of timeless immediacy, but the best McLean BNs,...maybe a tad more than most.

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The idea that "Swing Swang Swingin'" is a step backwards makes me laugh. Is Jackie any less intense there than on the other dates mentioned, excellent though they are? I don't think so.

Also, has anyone mentioned "New Soil" (I know, recorded in 1959 but surely part of the early '60s sequence stylistically)? When that one came out, Jackie's fierce, stripped down solo on "Hip Strut" was a revelation to a lot of us, quite unlike anything he or anyone else had recorded before, I beiieve. And that "abstract" Pete LaRoca solo on "Minor Apprehension"!

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McLean BN leader dates

1959

Jackie McLean - Jackie's Bag (Blue Note BLP 4051)

Jackie McLean - Vertigo (Blue Note LT-1085)

Jackie McLean - New Soil (Blue Note BLP 4013)

Jackie McLean - Swing, Swang, Swingin' (Blue Note BLP 4024)

1960

Jackie McLean - Capuchin Swing (Blue Note BLP 4038)

Jackie McLean/Tina Brooks - Street Singer (Blue Note (J) GXF-3067)

1961

Jackie McLean - Bluesnik (Blue Note BLP 4067)

Jackie McLean - A Fickle Sonance (Blue Note BLP 4089)

1962 (age 30)

Jackie McLean - Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note BLP 4106)

Jackie McLean - Hipnosis (Blue Note BN-LA483-H2)

Jackie McLean - Tippin' The Scales (Blue Note (J) GXF-3062)

1963

Jackie McLean - One Step Beyond (Blue Note BLP 4137)

Jackie McLean - Destination... Out! (Blue Note BLP 4165)

Jackie McLean - It's Time! (Blue Note BLP 4179)

Jackie McLean - Action (Blue Note BLP 4218)

1965

Jackie McLean - Right Now! (Blue Note BLP 4215)

Jackie McLean - Jacknife (Blue Note BN-LA457-H2)

Jackie McLean - Consequence (Blue Note LT-994)

1967

Jackie McLean - New And Old Gospel (Blue Note BLP 4262)

Jackie McLean - 'Bout Soul (Blue Note BST 84284)

Jackie McLean - Demon's Dance (Blue Note BST 84345)

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One thing I've never bothered to figure out: are all the cuts from Street Singer available on the Jackie's Bag RVG or is some of this still unreleased in the US? Save Bout Soul and Demon Dance I have every 59-67 McLean session released here by Blue Note. Do I still need to track down Street Singer? And what about the Japanese one with the plain sleeve with (I believe) Sonny Clark?

I'm being lazy! Do this work for me!

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This is a real Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs album, with one session recorded at the old studio and the other at the new. I wasn't aware of this and just saw it. Plus there's Tina Brooks, a man I like a lot, on the second session. I was hungry today for some McLean.

Street Singer (BN King) has elements of this album plus some other tracks which IRCC completes the session with Brooks. On the whole I think Street Singer seems to hold together better than Jackie's Bag.

Agreed, though "Quadrangle" is an interesting tune.

Also, has anyone mentioned "New Soil" (I know, recorded in 1959 but surely part of the early '60s sequence stylistically)? When that one came out, Jackie's fierce, stripped down solo on "Hip Strut" was a revelation to a lot of us, quite unlike anything he or anyone else had recorded before, I beiieve. And that "abstract" Pete LaRoca solo on "Minor Apprehension"!

New Soil was the first Jackie I heard and it still excites. "Minor Apprehension" is a wonderful thing.

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MI0002953671.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

This is a real Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs album, with one session recorded at the old studio and the other at the new. I wasn't aware of this and just saw it. Plus there's Tina Brooks, a man I like a lot, on the second session. I was hungry today for some McLean.

After that I listened to the Moncur Select, which is also very nice, presenting another side of McLean, but a very good one.

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One thing I've never bothered to figure out: are all the cuts from Street Singer available on the Jackie's Bag RVG or is some of this still unreleased in the US?

The liner notes to the RVG say only that session made it unto an LP at the time of the Japanese 70s, i think, Street Singer reissue. So the RVG is the first time both sessions are presented together, I assume in their integrity. Although the original release of Jackie's Bag contained half of the Street Singer session.

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The idea that "Swing Swang Swingin'" is a step backwards makes me laugh. Is Jackie any less intense there than on the other dates mentioned, excellent though they are? I don't think so.

Also, has anyone mentioned "New Soil" (I know, recorded in 1959 but surely part of the early '60s sequence stylistically)? When that one came out, Jackie's fierce, stripped down solo on "Hip Strut" was a revelation to a lot of us, quite unlike anything he or anyone else had recorded before, I beiieve. And that "abstract" Pete LaRoca solo on "Minor Apprehension"!

Just got into this thread today and was quite taken aback at all the knocks on "Swing Swang Swingin'". Finally I see your reaction to this unjustified criticism and certainly I fully agree with your take on this terrific album. Have loved "SSS" since I first heard it back in the late '60s and consider it an essential JayMac cooker as well as many of his other BN-led dates mentioned above.

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The only originally-released BN that I feel lukewarm about is 'Bout Soul. Right time, wrong place, or something like that. Other than that, there's always something there for me, a lot of something, actually.

As far as the latter-day "reissues", Tipping the Scales, I just don't get that one. And I might have enjoyed High Frequency as a quintet, rather than quartet date, maybe somebody to fill the gap between Jackie and the rhythm section, sometimes it strikes me a s a little too "this then that" in terms of overall group sound. Sometimes, not always.

But other than they, no worries when it comes to Jackie McLean and Blue Note, none at all.

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Never cared for "'Bout Soul." Bassist Scotty Holt was pretty annoying. Heard Jackie 'bout that time in Chicago with Holt on the band. Familiar to me from prior performances (Holt was IIRC a young Chicago vet), he took a typically flashy and IMO empty solo, after which I hear Jackie say sotto voce "ridiculous sh--." I'm aware that that often is a term of praise, but in this case I felt it was simply descriptive.

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Almost no music has been more important to me than these records. I bought "Hipnosis" when I was 16 and that was IT. When I was in college I transcribed for my own band almost all the songs from the quintet side with KD & Sonny Clark, including "Marilyn's Dilemma," "Iddy Bitty" ("'Snuff" in its later modal version) "The Three Minors," ("Vernestune"),"Blues in a Jiff" and "The Way I Feel." We also played "Capuchin Swing," "Blue Fable," Walter Davis' "Formidable," the arrangement of "I Love You" (on SSS, which I adore top to bottom) and "I Hear a Rhapsody" (nutty chart from "Action"). I used "Blue Rondo" as a break tune ... you get the idea.

There are certainly sides I like more than others and a few I could live without. ("Bout Soul,"Tippin' the Scales," perhaps surprisingly "New and Old Gospel"). Haven't seen "Right Now!" mentioned in this discussion -- that's killin' -- rewarding compositions, especially Tolliver's title track, quartet setting, Jackie's chops and pitch are in good shape -- not always the case in these years. (The alto-arco bass intonation on "Poor Eric" is pretty slippery, but expressively so, and besides what do expect? This ain't no jingle date.) The stuff with Moncour/Hutcherson, of course, exists in its own special category.) but the hard bop dates are wonderful, "Demon's Dance" is fantastic, a place where you ca hear the seeds of his later work in which he balances his inside/outside ideas. There's magic everywhere. Jackie's wild rides on "Bluesnik," "Action," "Floogeh," etc. His beautifully constructed solo on "My Old Flame." The drama of "Ghost Town." The incredible urgency of expression on "Let Freedom Ring" I could stay at this all day.

When he died I wrote this:

-----

There was nothing in jazz like the sugar-free sound of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, who died last week at his home in Hartford, Conn., at age 74.

McLean produced a searing, anguished wail that rode the sharp side of the pitch like a cowboy trying to tame a wild steer. Even those of us who worship McLean recognize that his acidic tone and slippery tuning are not to everyone's taste. But for true believers, McLean's bittersweet sound remains one of the most soulful cries in American music, and the hot-blooded intensity of his style manifests the same urgent quest for self-expression that made us fall in love with jazz in the first place.

McLean's music was rarely pretty by conventional standards, but it was profoundly honest. In a society that rewards prepackaged stars and false emotion, McLean was the real deal: a beacon for truth, justice, individuality and the blues.

McLean was also a cultural warrior who inspired cult devotion. Acolytes packed his performances, their mouths agape at the gale force of his attack. I once drove hundreds of miles to hear him in Chicago, where I happened to meet Detroit pianist Kenn Cox outside the club. I was first in line; Cox was second.

Part of McLean's allure was his pedigree. He was one of the last direct links to the mid-20th Century bebop innovators, his mentors defining geniuses of the age -- alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and trumpeter Miles Davis. Harlem-born, McLean was given an alto for his 15th birthday. Soon he was studying with Powell, working small jobs with Monk and sharing the bandstand with Parker. At age 20 he was working and recording with Davis.

In the mid '50s there were stints with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Art Blakey, though McLean was still so enthralled with Parker's style that Mingus often challenged him: "Jackie, you have your own sound. Now why don't you look for your own ideas."

McLean soon found them, absorbing Parker's rhythmic phrasing and fervor into his own angular phrasing and tart melodic vocabulary. A string of Blue Note LPs starting in 1959 document his early maturity -- "Jackie's Bag," "Swing, Swang, Swingin'," "A Fickle Sonance" and "Bluesnik."

Then the story takes a surprising twist. While many of his contemporaries turned a cold shoulder to the avant-garde in the '60s, McLean, in a firm act of artistic bravery, embraced it. He reinvented himself, grafting searching modal forms onto his bop roots, expanding his compositional palette and forming bands around young vanguard musicians.

"The new breed has inspired me all over again," McLean wrote in 1962. The titles of his LPs reflect the exploratory spirit of the space age and the heat of the civil rights era: "Let Freedom Ring," "One Step Beyond," "Destination Out," "It's Time," "Right Now."

That McLean was able to reshape his destiny is remarkable given that he was still struggling with heroin addiction, which he had picked up as a teenager. McLean eventually kicked his habit and in 1970 began a long teaching career at the University of Hartford. He and his wife, Dollie, became community leaders, founding the Artists Collective, a Hartford cultural center for city youth.

When McLean resumed performing in earnest around 1990, his playing had progressed again -- his technique was suppler, his sound richer and the sweep of his conception registered a newfound majesty. You can hear it on the brilliant "Dynasty" (Triloka), which includes an impassioned reading of "A House is Not a Home," a saccharine Burt Bacharach ballad McLean transforms into a transcendent anthem.

If there is a lot of hurt still in McLean's sound, there is an equal amount of triumph. His solo is about overcoming adversity. The struggle is audible. Stuttering phrases explode in delirious bursts of lyricism. McLean was never sentimental, but he was a romantic.

McLean's sound hit me like a bolt of lightning when I was a kid studying the alto. Just as he once wanted to be Charlie Parker, I wanted to be Jackie McLean. My bands played his tunes, a fact that delighted McLean when I met him that night in Chicago when I was first in line. I spoke with him several times over the years, and his warmth, integrity and humanity always moved me.

Like most McLean freaks, I have a hard time relating to those who don't get him. Years ago a saxophonist told me someone said his sound resembled McLean. He didn't know McLean's music, so he borrowed a record from the library. Turned out he didn't dig it.

All I could say was, "I'm sorry."











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Edited by Mark Stryker
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