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Monday, April 03, 2006


Blue Note BST-84137 (1963)

Jackie McLean's death on Friday at the age of 73 marked the passing of one of jazz music's major voices. McLean recorded prolifically during the fifties and sixties, mostly for the Blue Note label; his piercing alto sax tone was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, but he went on to find his own voice and make some of the most important hard bop recordings of the period. He would also become one of jazz's most influential educaters, founding the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford's Hartt School in Connecticut.

McLean's music of the sixties often incorporated elements of the avant garde movement of jazz that was forming at the time, and One Step Beyond shows the influence of artists such as Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman (whom McLean invited to play on his 1967 recording New and Old Gospel). The band is a top-notch line-up of forward-looking jazzmen of the time; Grachan Moncur III plays trombone and contributes two of the four compositions, Bobby Hutcherson plays vibes, Eddie Khan holds down the bass chair, and seventeen year-old drummer Tony Williams makes his recording debut (just before going on to play for Miles Davis' classic sixties quintet).

"Saturday and Sunday" opens the album with an alternately ascending and descending whole-tone line that moves quickly into a fast-paced bop tune featuring a typically searing solo from McLean. Moncur's "Frankenstein" slows things down a bit and contains a probing, economical solo from the soulful trombonist. "Blue Rondo" is a brief, swinging blues that features solos from Hutcherson, Moncur, and McLean, who begins his excursion in the vein of his idol Parker before branching out into some politely "out" phrasing. Hutcherson's vibes lend a spooky feel to the closing tune "Ghost Town", a long, mysterious tune with plenty of long tones and angular riffing.

McLean will be missed in the jazz community for his creativity and passion, both in his music and his teachings, but his legacy lives on in his vast discography. No collection is complete without at least one of his albums.


At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Bluesnik said...

Jackie was wonderful and will be much missed ~ As you say A GREAT Album...join me in lobbying B/Note to get it RVGd ~ See Right now on the B/Note website.

Richard LLiile/Franch]


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