John Lenwood "Jackie" McLean (May 17, 1931 – March 31, 2006) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and educator, and is one of the few musicians to be elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame in the year of their death.
|Birth name||John Lenwood McLean|
|Born||May 17, 1931|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 31, 2006 (aged 74)|
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jazz fusion, avant-garde jazz|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, educator|
McLean was born in New York City. His father, John Sr., played guitar in Tiny Bradshaw's orchestra. After his father's death in 1939, Jackie's musical education was continued by his godfather, his record-store-owning stepfather, and several noted teachers. He also received informal tutoring from neighbors Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Charlie Parker. During high school McLean played in a band with Kenny Drew, Sonny Rollins, and Andy Kirk, Jr. (the saxophonist son of Andy Kirk).
Along with Rollins, McLean played on Miles Davis' Dig album, when he was 20 years old. As a young man he also recorded with Gene Ammons, Charles Mingus (for Pithecanthropus Erectus), George Wallington, and as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. McLean joined Blakey after reportedly being punched by Mingus. Fearing for his life, McLean pulled out a knife and contemplated using it against Mingus in self-defense, but later stated that he was grateful that he had not stabbed the bassist.
McLean's early recordings as leader were in the hard bop school. He later became an exponent of modal jazz without abandoning his foundation in hard bop. Throughout his career he was known for a distinctive tone, akin to the tenor saxophone and often described with such adjectives as "bitter-sweet", "piercing", or "searing", a slightly sharp pitch, and a strong foundation in the blues.
McLean was a heroin addict throughout his early career, and the resulting loss of his New York City cabaret card forced him to undertake a large number of recording dates to earn income in the absence of nightclub performance opportunities. Consequently, he produced an extensive body of recorded work in the 1950s and 1960s. He was under contract with Blue Note Records from 1959 to 1967, having previously recorded for Prestige. Blue Note offered better pay and more artistic control than other labels, and his work for this organization is highly regarded and includes leadership and sideman dates with a wide range of musicians, including Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Redd, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Grachan Moncur III, Bobby Hutcherson, Mal Waldron, Tina Brooks and many others.
In 1962, he recorded Let Freedom Ring for Blue Note. This album was the culmination of attempts he had made over the years to deal with harmonic problems in jazz, incorporating ideas from the free jazz developments of Ornette Coleman and the "new breed" which inspired his blending of hard bop with the "new thing": "the search is on, Let Freedom Ring". Let Freedom Ring began a period in which he performed with avant-garde jazz musicians rather than the veteran hard bop performers he had been playing with previously. His adaptation of modal jazz and free jazz innovations to his vision of hard bop made his recordings from 1962 on distinctive.
McLean recorded with dozens of musicians and had a gift for spotting talent. Saxophonist Tina Brooks, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, pianist Larry Willis, trumpeter Bill Hardman, and tubist Ray Draper were among those who benefited from McLean's support in the 1950s and 1960s. Drummers such as Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, Michael Carvin, and Carl Allen gained important early experience with McLean.
In 1967, his recording contract, like those of many other progressive musicians, was terminated by Blue Note's new management. His opportunities to record promised so little pay that he abandoned recording as a way to earn a living, concentrating instead on touring. In 1968, he began teaching at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. He later set up the university's African American Music Department (now the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz) and its Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies program. His Steeplechase recording New York Calling, made with his son René McLean, showed that by 1980 the assimilation of all influences was complete.
In 1970, he and his wife, Dollie McLean, along with jazz bassist Paul (PB) Brown, founded the Artists Collective, Inc. of Hartford, an organization dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the African Diaspora. It provides educational programs and instruction in dance, theatre, music and visual arts. The membership of McLean's later bands were drawn from his students in Hartford, including Steve Davis and his son René, who is a jazz saxophonist and flautist as well as a jazz educator. Also in McLean's Hartford group was Mark Berman, the jazz pianist and broadway conductor of Smokey Joe's Cafe and Rent. In 1979 he reached No. 53 in the UK Singles Chart with "Doctor Jackyll and Mister Funk". This track, released on RCA as a 12" single, was an unusual sidestep for McLean to contribute towards the funk/disco revolution of the late 1970s. Many people, at the time, in the clubs where it was played confused the female singers on the track with his name thinking he was actually female.
He received an American Jazz Masters fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001 and numerous other national and international awards. McLean was the only American jazz musician to found a department of studies at a university and a community-based organization almost simultaneously. Each has existed for over three decades.
McLean died on March 31, 2006, in Hartford, Connecticut after a long illness. In 2006, Jackie McLean was elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame via the International Critics Poll. He is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City.
A. B. Spellman's 1966 study, Black Music, Four Lives: Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Nichols, Jackie McLean, still in print, includes extensive mid-career reflections by McLean on his youth and career to date. Derek Ansell's full-length biography of McLean, Sugar Free Saxophone. details the story of his career and provides a full analysis of his music on record.
|Album||Year recorded||Label||Year released||Notes|
|Presenting... Jackie McLean||1955||Ad Lib||1955|
|Complete 1955-1957 Quartet Quintet Sextet Sessions||1955-57||Jazz Connections||2007||comprises Presenting... Jackie McLean up to Fat Jazz|
|4, 5 and 6||1956||Prestige||1956|
|Jackie's Pal a.k.a. Steeplechase||1956||Prestige||1957||"Jackie McLean Quintet Introducing Bill Hardman"|
|McLean's Scene||1956-57||Prestige (New Jazz)||1959|
|Jackie McLean & Co.||1957||Prestige||1957|
|Makin' the Changes||1957||Prestige (New Jazz)||1960|
|A Long Drink of the Blues||1957||Prestige (New Jazz)||1961|
|Alto Madness||1957||Prestige||1957||co-led by John Jenkins|
|Jackie McLean Quintet||1957||Jubilee||1957|
|The Complete Jubilee Sessions||1957||Lone Hill Jazz||2008||comprises Fat Jazz and Jackie McLean Quintet|
|Jackie's Bag||1959||Blue Note||1960|
|New Soil||1959||Blue Note||1959|
|Swing, Swang, Swingin'||1959||Blue Note||1960|
|Capuchin Swing||1960||Blue Note||1960|
|Street Singer||1960||Blue Note||1980||co-led by Tina Brooks|
|Inta Somethin'||1961||Pacific Jazz||1962||co-led by Kenny Dorham|
|A Fickle Sonance||1961||Blue Note||1962|
|Let Freedom Ring||1962||Blue Note||1963|
|Tippin' the Scales||1962||Blue Note||1979|
|One Step Beyond||1963||Blue Note||1964|
|Destination... Out!||1963||Blue Note||1964|
|It's Time!||1964||Blue Note||1965|
|Action Action Action||1964||Blue Note||1967|
|Right Now!||1965||Blue Note||1966|
|New and Old Gospel||1967||Blue Note||1968|
|'Bout Soul||1967||Blue Note||1969|
|Demon's Dance||1967||Blue Note||1970|
|Live at Montmartre||1972||SteepleChase||1972|
|Altissimo||1973||Philips||1973||with Lee Konitz, Gary Bartz and Charlie Mariano|
|Ode to Super||1973||SteepleChase||1973||featuring Gary Bartz|
|A Ghetto Lullaby||1973||SteepleChase||1974|
|The Meeting||1973||SteepleChase||1974||featuring Dexter Gordon|
|The Source||1973||SteepleChase||1974||featuring Dexter Gordon (Vol. 2)|
|Antiquity||1974||SteepleChase||1975||with Michael Carvin|
|New York Calling||1974||SteepleChase||1974||with the Cosmic Brotherhood|
|Like Old Times||1976||Victor (Jp)||1976||co-led by Mal Waldron|
|New Wine in Old Bottles||1978||East Wind (Jp)||1978|
|It's About Time||1985||Blue Note||1985||co-led by McCoy Tyner|
|Left Alone '86||1986||Paddle Wheel||1986||co-led by Mal Waldron|
|Dynasty||1988||Triloka||1990||featuring René McLean|
|Rites of Passage||1991||Triloka||1991||featuring René McLean|
|The Jackie Mac Attack Live||1991||Birdology/Verve||1993|
|Rhythm of the Earth||1992||Antilles/Birdology||1992|
|Hat Trick||1996||Somethin' Else (Jp)||1996||with Junko Onishi|
|Fire & Love||1997||Somethin' Else (Jp)/Blue Note||1997|
|Nature Boy||1999||Somethin' Else (Jp)/Blue Note||1999|
The sortable table's default is the date of the recording session. An asterisk (*) behind the album's title signifies only a minor contribution by McLean to the recording.
|Leader||Album||Year recorded||Label||Year released|
|Miles Davis||The New Sounds and Blue Period (10"),
|1951||Blue Note||1951/1953, |
|Miles Davis||Young Man with a Horn (10"),
Miles Davis Volume 1, Volume 2
|1952||Blue Note||1952, |
|Miles Davis (and Milt Jackson)||Quintet/Sextet||1955||Prestige||1956|
|George Wallington||Live at the Café Bohemia||1955||Progressive||1955|
|Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop||Pithecanthropus Erectus||1956||Atlantic||1956|
|Gene Ammons||Hi Fidelity Jam Session a.k.a. The Happy Blues||1956||Prestige||1956|
|Gene Ammons||Jammin' with Gene||1956||Prestige||1956|
|Hank Mobley||Mobley's Message||1956||Prestige||1957|
|Art Farmer and Donald Byrd||2 Trumpets||1956||Prestige||1957|
|Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers||Hard Bop||1956||Columbia||1957|
|Art Blakey||Drum Suite||1956||Columbia||1957|
|Art Blakey||Ritual||1957||Pacific Jazz||1960|
|Art Taylor||Taylor's Wailers||1957||Prestige||1957|
|Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Raney||2 Guitars||1957||Prestige||1957|
|Art Blakey||A Midnight Session a.k.a. Mirage||1957||Elektra, Savoy||1957|
|Ray Draper||Tuba Sounds||1957||Prestige||1957|
|Art Blakey||A Night in Tunisia||1957||Vik||1957|
|Gene Ammons||Jammin' in Hi Fi with Gene Ammons||1957||Prestige||1957|
|Mal Waldron||Mal/2 (and The Dealers)||1957||Prestige (Status)||1957|
|Sonny Clark||Cool Struttin'||1958||Blue Note||1958|
|Donald Byrd||Off to the Races||1958||Blue Note||1959|
|Charles Mingus||Blues & Roots||1959||Atlantic||1960|
|Mal Waldron||Left Alone*||1959||Bethlehem||1959|
|Walter Davis Jr.||Davis Cup||1959||Blue Note||1960|
|Donald Byrd||Fuego||1959||Blue Note||1960|
|Freddie Redd||The Music from "The Connection"||1960||Blue Note||1960|
|Jimmy Smith||Open House||1960||Blue Note||1968|
|Jimmy Smith||Plain Talk*||1960||Blue Note||1968|
|Lee Morgan||Lee-Way||1960||Blue Note||1961|
|Donald Byrd||Byrd in Flight||1960||Blue Note||1960|
|Freddie Redd||Shades of Redd||1960||Blue Note||1961|
|Tina Brooks||Back to the Tracks||1960||Blue Note||1998|
|Freddie Redd||Redd's Blues||1961||Blue Note||1988|
|Kenny Dorham||Matador||1962||United Artists||1963|
|Grachan Moncur III||Evolution||1963||Blue Note||1964|
|Lee Morgan||Tom Cat||1964||Blue Note||1980|
|Lee Morgan||Cornbread||1965||Blue Note||1967|
|Lee Morgan||Infinity||1965||Blue Note||1981|
|Lee Morgan||Charisma||1966||Blue Note||1969|
|Jack Wilson||Easterly Winds||1967||Blue Note||1968|
|Hank Mobley||Hi Voltage||1967||Blue Note||1968|
|Lee Morgan||The Sixth Sense||1967||Blue Note||1970|
|Mal Waldron||Like Old Time||1976||Victor (Jp)||1976|
|Art Farmer||Live in Tokyo||1977||CTI (Jp)||1977|
|All Star band||One Night with Blue Note Preserved Vol. 2||1985||Blue Note||1985|
|All star band||Birdology: Live at the TBB Jazz Festival (Vol. 1 & 2)||1989||Verve (F)||1989, 1990|
|All star band with Dizzy Gillespie||The Paris All Stars - Homage to Charlie Parker||1989||A&M||1990|
|Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers||The Art of Jazz||1989||In & Out||1989|
|Abbey Lincoln||The World Is Falling Down||1990||Verve||1990|
|Miles Davis||Black Devil a.k.a. At La Villette (DVD)*||1991||Beech Marten, JVC (Jp)||1992, 2001|
|Dizzy Gillespie||To Bird with Love||1992||Telarc||1992|
|Dizzy Gillespie||Bird Songs: The Final Recordings*||1992||Telarc||1992|
- Keepnews, Peter (April 3, 2006). "Jackie McLean, Jazz Saxophonist and Mentor, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
John Lenwood McLean was born in Harlem on May 17, 1931. (Many sources give his year of birth as 1932, but The Grove Dictionary of Jazz and other authoritative reference works say he was born a year earlier.)
- "Jackie McLean - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
- Watrous, Peter (December 15, 1992). "Andy Kirk, 94, Big-Band Leader Known for the Kansas City Sound". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Liner notes to the album Dynasty
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 341. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Spellman, A. B. (2004). Four jazz lives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 179–236. ISBN 0472022644.
- Ansell, Derek (2013). Sugar free saxophone : the life and music of Jackie McLean. London: Northway Publications. ISBN 978-0955788864.
- Jackie McLean at Allmusic
- Jackie McLean discography at Discogs
- Jackie McLean at Find a Grave
- Jackie McLean complete discography from Music City
- Jackie McLean discography at JazzDisco.org
- Jackie McLean at NEA Jazz Masters
- Jackie McLean at Hard Bop
- Jackie McLean audio interviews at New England Jazz History Database
- Artists Collective Inc. – official history
- Artists Collective Inc. – history
- Jackie McLean obituary in The Guardian (London) by John Fordham, April 3, 2006
- Jackie McLean obituary "Blues for Jackie" in Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT) by Owen McNally, April 1, 2006
- Jackie McLean – Jazz Portraits from the WGBH Archives, a radio documentary from WGBH Radio Boston
- Jackie McLean on Mars – film