jackie mclean

Category: By the bug


The title track is a snake charmer kind of vamp that is an excellent showcase for both the rhythm section and the soloists. Of particular note is the way drummer Higgins and pianist Lamont Johnson interweave the basket out of which emerge the serpentine horn lines of Jackie and Grachan. Some might call this a super-sophisticated "Sidewinder".

"Slow Poke" written by Jackie, is a soulful off-the-wall composition that recalls the best elements of early Ornette Colman but remains all Jackie just the same. The rhythm section comes and goes as it pleases, with pianist Johnson leaving large holes for Scotty Holt and Higgins to move about and much of the harmonic structure, like the time, is taken for granted or approached from relatively arbitrary angles by the horns. The common conception is simply no longer one of grooves but is expanded to include dramatic movement. Bassist Holt, who was a protege of Jackie's, solos with excellent facility and covers all the bases.

"The Breakout" does just that after a brief skirmish with a cross time opening theme. The soloing employs tone rows rather than chord changes. Despite the avant garde format, the soloing is somewhat traditional in character, and after a short series of chord resolutions, the piece abruptly ends.

"Back Home" by Moncur, reminds the listener that Grachan put in several long seasons on the road with the Ray Charles Band. It opens with a dramatic lament, with Higgins kicking loosely on the background, and one can almost visualize a country rode, down which comes a cow-cow boogie of the pure bred variety. The groove of this tune is authentic funk, more like Archie Shepp's tributes to his roots than the artificial twist jazz that was fashionable in the 60s.

The date ends with Johnson's "The Reason Why", a very rational chord progression followed by a string of logical rhythm kicks, out of which comes Jackie, flying upside down and sideways, wonderfully free and being buoyed up by the currents being generated behind him. His off-hand outside-in approach is a good closer to his package, as it demonstrates the fifties, sixties and even seventies elements in his playing.


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