Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean is someone who I came to a little late in my jazz education. The first JMac that I really bought was box set that Mosaic Records put out, most of which was lost on me at the time because it was playing of a more progressive manner. I was looking for the bop period. It was after my first trip to NYC back in 2003 when I hooked up with my now good friend Ian Hendrickson-Smith that I really started to check JMac out and understand just how influential he was. The album that really did it for me was the one that we’re paying tribute to this weekend at The Cellar, NEW SOIL. I can’t write eloquently of why this one more than any of his other classics like SWING, SWANG, SWINGIN, A FICKLE SONANCE etc. on Blue Note but NEW SOIL just hit me. The first thing that gets you with Jackie is that sound! So direct, so round, so piercing (in a good way). That resistance! Something that’s hard to explain to a non saxophone player. His phrasing, the way he weaved together his lines. URGH! I love it! This wasn’t the first record that JMac recorded for Blue Note but it was the first that was released on the label. Special mention should be made to the sidemen on this date especially the fine trumpet playing of DONALD BYRD who is really on fire throughout this whole record! WALTER DAVIS JR. piano, PAUL CHAMBERS bass and PETE LAROCA drums. We’re going to play the whole album on Friday and Saturday: Greasy, Davis Cup, Formidable, Sweet Cakes, Hip Strut and Minor Apprehension.
Another thing I realized about JMac is that his educational efforts where amazing starting The Hart School of Music at The University of Hartford. The people to come out of that school (to name only a few) are tenor saxophonist JIMMY GREENE, alto saxophonist MIKE DIRUBBO and trombonist STEVE DAVIS. These are 3 of the nicest and most humble guys on the New York Jazz Scene. I remember asking Mike DiRubbo about how they have stayed so grounded yet play with so much fire and passion and two words came from his mouth: “JACKIE MAC.”