Jackie McLean, Action (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Action (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)

Jackie McLean
Jackie Mac in his glorious prime

No Blue Note musician personified the home of hard bop's response to the avant-garde like alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, who made a streak of early '60s LPs that straddle stylistic divides. Some new cats played beboppy melodies and then blew free-style; on 1964's Action, as often in the period, McLean blasts the twisting title tune with free jazz energy, then improvises on the underlying chords with like a regulation bopper — a challenge both ways. Bop king Charlie Parker was his boyhood idol — hear the standard ballad "I Hear a Rhapsody." But McLean had his own vinegary tone and pushy intonation that pop out of the speakers, as on his sorta-blues "Hootnan," kicked by drummer Billy Higgins's swinging percolations. Bobby Hutcherson's flexible vibes echo his amazing malletboard-spanking on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, or show a gentler, Milt Jacksony side, as on the crackling trumpeter Charles Tolliver's daydreamy ballad "Wrong Handle." The springy bassist is Cecil McBee, two years before he made his reputation with Charles Lloyd's quartet. Action is Jackie Mac in his glorious prime.