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Jackie McLean's 1950's Prestige Recordings


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... the fiery, keening, naked quality of Jackie's sound. It's just so pure and intense. So youthful, really, a sort of swaggering Romeo.

Nice description. There is a certain amount of swagger in the Prestige dates, whereas in the Blue Note sessions I hear a more concentrated effort to stretch boundaries, which results in a greater level of seriousness.

Of Jackie's Blue Notes, I've always thought Jackie's Bag was under-examined. Some of the very best Sonny Clark on record there — some of the hippest comp figures I've heard. I've also wondered if the cover art were different — say, with an actual photo of Jackie — if the record itself would receive more attention. I guess Francis Wolff was not a fan of that cover.

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I'd like to hear Jackie's two Jubilee dates in great sound.

Kind of nit-picky, but doesn't Jackie only have one date on Jubilee (i.e. Fat Jazz)? I thought his debut was on Ad Lib, and then later reissued on Jubilee. (So, I guess there are two Jubilee dates.)

At any rate, I agree with your statement. I have his debut session on a 1983 Japanese compact disc (the price printed on the tray card at 3500¥!) with the owl cover ... on Roulette. The sound is actually quite good. I have Fat Jazz on a Japanese SBCJ mini-LP edition. The sound is compressed like crazy, but with the volume turned down, it doesn't sound awful. Both sessions would benefit from a careful remaster.

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The Ad-Lib date sounds no better or worse than most of the prestige sides. I quite like it. I've only heard Fat Jazz on Spotify and thought that both the sound and music were poor.

The CD edition I have is TOCJ 50151 from Japan (2006). Sound is reasonable. Bass is pretty thin but there's no unpleasant shrillness , very listenable.

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So I suppose people don't get too enthusiastic about his dates for Jubilee (particularly "Fat Jazz") either? I heard it first before finding out about its place in McLean's opus but found it very nice to listen to.

I have that plus Presenting Jackie McLean (with Donald Byrd, Mal Waldron, Doug Watkins and Ronald Tucker) on Ad Lib, which was a Japanese facsimile mini LP and I like them both.

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So I suppose people don't get too enthusiastic about his dates for Jubilee (particularly "Fat Jazz") either? I heard it first before finding out about its place in McLean's opus but found it very nice to listen to.

I have that plus Presenting Jackie McLean (with Donald Byrd, Mal Waldron, Doug Watkins and Ronald Tucker) on Ad Lib, which was a Japanese facsimile mini LP and I like them both.

I like them fine, certainly on par with most of the Prestige dates.

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I was a relatively young jazz listener when I recall finding a copy of the original Ad Lib Jackie McLean LP in a small shop in Detroit. It had just been released. I liked it a lot then, and still do today though I now have a CD copy. Not long after I acquired the original McLean Prestige LPs as each one was issued. The intensity of Jackie's playing was something that thrilled me. My three favorite Prestige sessions by Jackie are - Lights Out - Jackie McLean & Co. - Jackie's Pal.

I do also enjoy the other Prestige recordings by Jackie McLean as both leader and sideman. McLean was one of the first jazz musicians for whom I wanted to acquire every single album on which he appeared.

I prefer the Prestige albums to those on Steeplechase, and I get as much pleasure from them as i do with most of the Blue Note sessions.

Edited by Peter Friedman
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Chuck is essentially right about the drug thing/red herring; but it is true that McLean very specifically (at least when I knew him) didn't want to talk much about those days; his thought was that Weinstock had taken advantage of the drug problems of these musicians and had gotten them to record for very little. Of course one might say it wasn't Weinstock's responsibility to make sure their lives were in order. He offered, they accepted. And McLean is absolutely brilliant in those years, providing, inadvertently or not, an emotional template for a lot of post-bop saxophonists (as Larry has implied).

and as for taking financial advantage, Dolly made sure he worked with young guys whom he did not have to pay much. So I guess he learned from that business model....

Edited by AllenLowe
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I'd like to hear Jackie's two Jubilee dates in great sound.

Kind of nit-picky, but doesn't Jackie only have one date on Jubilee (i.e. Fat Jazz)? I thought his debut was on Ad Lib, and then later reissued on Jubilee. (So, I guess there are two Jubilee dates.)

yeah, correct. The Ad Lib pressing is extremely rare.

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But I agree with JSngry's wish for a box set - would indeed be an interesting way to re-evaluate all of this material.

Several years ago I created my own boxset of his Prestige recordings, in session order. Can't say it improved my understanding of his playing at that time but it was certainly an intense listening experience. Whenever I now listen to these recordings, which isn't often, I play them by album. My favourite has always been "4, 5 and 6".

I much prefer his Blue Note recordings; "Let Freedom Ring" and "Destination Out" and "One Step Beyond" are wonderful.

Edited by Head Man
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Several years ago I created my own boxset of his Prestige recordings, in session order.

I did the same thing. I tried listening that way, and then went back to the (random?) Weinstock order. The only "session order" date that I continue to listen to is the February 15, 1957 (the "Arthur Phipps" session) date that was spread over multiple records. Great playing there.

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Let's not forget this almost magical pairing ...

Nor the one-record effort of Ferris Benda.

This is his Prestige Records thread.......

It's evolved into Jackie's 50's thread, to compliment the 60's and 70's-and-beyond threads. Having said that, "Ferris Benda" must be one of those cool, inside references I don't know about.

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  • 7 months later...

The only "session order" date that I continue to listen to is the February 15, 1957 (the "Arthur Phipps" session) date that was spread over multiple records. Great playing there.

Ok, so it's not just me, then. Try reconstructing that into what appears to be recording order...mindblowing..

And whatever became of Mr. Phipps?

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  • 3 months later...

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