Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


McLEAN, Jackie

(b John Lenwood McLean, 17 May 1931, NYC; d 31 March 2006) Alto sax, composer. His father, John McLean, was a guitarist with Tiny Bradshaw. He played with Sonny Rollins and studied music with Bud Powell after school; through Powell he met Charlie Parker, who was his idol. He recorded with Miles Davis on Blue Note '52, with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers 1956-8, and on classic Charles Mingus albums on Atlantic Pithecanthropus Erectus '56 and Blues & Roots '58. He also played with Paul Bley, George Wallington, others. Already a sensation as a teenager, he was one of those who were influenced but ultimately not dominated by Parker, his own more linear intensity making a powerful contribution to hard bop in the era of classic records on Blue Note and Prestige. He acted and played off-Broadway in Jack Gelber's The Connection '59-60 (music by Freddie Redd) and in the 1961 film version, playing a heroin addict, which he was at the time. In the '60s-70s he took up flute, became a teacher, developed as a composer and playwright, also also did anti-drug counselling. In the early 1980s he appeared teaching, playing and talking in a documentary film, Jackie McLean On Mars, directed by Ken Levis.

His first recording session as a leader in 1955 included Mal Waldron, later reissued in sets on Trip and French Roulette with a '57 session originally on Jubilee. Prestige/Status/New Jazz LPs '56-7 with excellent personnel variously included Waldron, Elmo Hope, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Doug Watkins, Art Taylor, many others (some now on Fantasy), including Lights Out, Jackie's Pal, McLean's Scene, Alto Madness, Makin' The Changes, Strange Blues, and several more including Contour, a two-disc compilation with 1956 tracks including Donald Byrd. About 20 LPs on Blue Note '59-67 were nearly all quintets with support of similar high quality, including Jackie's Bag (the USA LP culled from two sessions '59-60; a Japanese edition Street Singer had all '60 tracks with Tina Brooks), two-disc albums Jacknife '65-6, Hipnosis '62-7; New Soil and Swing, Swang, Swingin' '59; Capuchin Swing '60; Bluesnick and A Fickle Sonance '61, Let Freedom Ring and Tippin' The Scales '62; Vertigo, One Step Beyond and Destination Out '63; It's Time and Action '64 (both with Cecil McBee); Right Now! and Consequence '65; New And Old Gospel '67 with Ornette Coleman on trumpet. Dr Jackle '66 on Danish Steeplechase joined by six more LPs on that label '72-4 including The Meeting and The Source with Dexter Gordon; duet LP Antiquity with Michael Garvin features temple blocks, bells, bamboo flutes, etc; and New York Calling by Jackie McLean and the Cosmic Brotherhood, with Jackie playing tenor, his stepson René McLean (b 16 December 1946) playing alto, soprano and tenor. Altissimo '74 on Japanese Philips is a Lee Konitz LP with four altos (McLean, Konitz, Gary Bartz, Charlie Mariano) plus piano trio. New Wine, Old Bottles on East Wind/Inner City was a quartet of McLean, Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Tony Williams; Moments '79 on RCA a larger group. Dynasty '88 and Rites Of Passage on Triloka also featured René, whose sextet album on Steeplechase was Watch Out!; René also made In African Eyes '92 on Triloka with a large group of African sidemen including Hugh Masekela. Jackie's Rhythm Of The Earth '92 on Antilles included Roy Hargrove, The Jackie Mac Attack Live '93 was on Verve. The Complete Blue Note 1964-66 Jackie McLean Sessions was a limited edition by Mosaic; McLean was teaching at the U. of Hartford in the 1990s. Jackie's Blues Bag '97 on Hip Bop by the Essence All Stars was a tribute album with Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Craig Handy; McLean himself returned on Blue Note with Hat Trick '97, a quartet with Junko Onishi on piano.