Jackie McLean

Alto Saxophone
May 17, 1932 -- March 31, 2006

Jackie McLean

Jackie McLean

"A true cry from the heart, piercing and ragged, McLean's tone has always been his strong point."

--David H. Rosenthal

John Lenwood McLean is known better as simply Jackie. A native New Yorker, Jackie McLean was left a musical heritage by his father, John Sr., who played guitar with Tiny Bradshaw. He died in 1939. The incentive to further the heritage was given him by his mother when she bought him his first saxophone.

Jackie grew up in Harlem with bop already flowering around him. He played in a neighborhood band that included Sonny Rollins and Andy Kirk Jr. on saxophones and Kenny Drew on piano. After school hours he would jam and study with Bud Powell and although he names Charlie Parker, Rollins and Kirk as his favorite saxophonists, Jackie states that "Bud Powell is my inspiration." In those afternoon sessions Bud taught him chord changes and imparted the important lesson of "time." It was in 1951 that Jackie made his first recordings. These can be heard on Miles Davis's Dig.

Actually it wasn't until 1955 that Jackie started playing jobs that brought his name before the public. With Paul Bley's quartet and George Wallington's quintet he started to fulfill the promise he had shown when Bud Powell unveiled him one night at Birdland some five years before. 1956 finds him with Charles Mingus's quintet as another phase of his career opens.

--IRA GITLER, from the liner notes,
Lights Out, Prestige.

Just as most major rhythm-and-blues singers started out in church choirs, virtually all the best hard boppers paid at least some R&B dues. Even Jackie McLean, who identified himself early on as a bebopper and was sponsored by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, had [R&B] experience. "I played in rhythm-and-blues bands when I went to North Carolina in 1953 to try to go to school again, and I stayed down there for a year, and yeah, it helped me.

"It influenced me. I was playing with a group in Greensboro. Danny Richmond at that time was playing saxophone, and it was him and myself and T.J. Anderson, who was a jazz and classical composer for Tufts University. He was there at that time, so we played around in the local clubs and rhythm-and-blues bands, the ABA Club and different clubs in the city, backing up singers and playing blues, most of the time in one key all night depending on who was the bandleader.

"There was one saxophone player who used to play everything in E-flat. When he was the bandleader we played blues in E-flat all night, and I used to walk the bar with him, battle with him. I worked with him a great deal. The first record I made was not with Miles. I made a rhythm-and-blues piece with Charlie Singleton's band called 'Camel Walkin' where I played baritone sax, no solo."

Thus, when McLean describes the differences between bebop and hard bop, he is also describing his own evolution and the elements of his style: "Certainly Charlie Parker kept all the roots there, I mean, he was definitely a blues player and a lot of the music that he composed was structured on the blues form, and yet there was another kind of gospel feeling, a funk kind of feeling if I can use that term, that came into the music in the mid-fifties with Horace Silver and some of the guys that were thinking along these lines. I certainly, myself, thought along heavy blues lines, blues feeling, and my concept of it, so I just think it had more of a gospel feeling to it, a sanctified feeling to it mixed with all the other ingredients that Bird, Bud, Thelonious gave us."

Oxford University Press, 1992

A selected discography of Jackie McLean albums.

Find Jackie McLean on Amazon.comFind Jackie McLean on eBay.com
Jackie McLean CDs on AmazonJackie McLean CDs on eBay
Jackie McLean Quintet, VHS, 1991Jackie McLean LPs on eBay
One Night with Blue Note, DVD, 1985.Jackie McLean DVD / VHS on eBay
Four Jazz Lives, Spellman, BOOKJackie McLean BOOKs on eBay
Jackie McLean, MUSIC BOOK


Any comments, additions or suggestions should be adressed to:
The Hard Bop Homepage / Eric B. Olsen / ebolsen@juno.com
Other Web Sites:                                   
The Film Noir 'net               A History of Horror     
The War Film Web            Author Eric B. Olsen