As the title suggests, there is little about this disc that would constitute a safe approach to jazz. But then, alto man Jackie McLean never was one to take the easy path. The adventurousness of this set from 1963 hints of the changing scene at the time and McLean makes a bold statement here. Included in the adventure are the daring Grachan Moncur III, the equally confident Bobby Hutcherson, and the enterprising Roy Haynes. In all, this makes for a wild ride that opens the door to a new world of possibilities.
New Soil wasn't the first session Jackie McLean recorded for Blue Note, but it was the first one released, and as the title suggests, the first glimmerings of McLean's desire to push beyond the limits of bop are already apparent. They're subtle, of course, and nowhere near as pronounced as they would be in just a few years' time, but – as with the 1959 material later issued on Jackie's Bag – hints of Ornette Coleman's stream-of-consciousness melodic freedom are beginning to find their way into McLean's improvisations. His playing is just a touch more angular than the ear expects, especially given the very bluesy nature of pieces like McLean's 11-minute vamp "Hip Strut," and pianist Walter Davis, Jr.'s infectious boogie-woogie "Greasy." Coleman's influence is most apparent on McLean's "Minor Apprehension," where the freewheeling, Coleman-esque main theme is paralleled by trumpeter Donald Byrd in a definite nod to Don Cherry. What's more, drummer Pete LaRoca takes a surprisingly free solo of significant length toward the end of the track.
The last of the Jackie McLean Prestige sessions, this LP has material from two different sets, but fortunately, the music is on a higher level than one might expect of "leftovers." "Strange Blues" is from a marathon quartet set that McLean had with pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Arthur Phipps, and drummer Art Taylor, as is a rendition of "What's New" that is an alternate version to the one included on Makin' the Changes. In addition, "Disciples Love Affair" and "Millie's Pad" match McLean with the tuba of Ray Draper (who contributed both songs), trumpeter Webster Young, pianist John Meyers, bassist Bill Salter, and drummer Larry Ritchie, while the incomplete "Not So Strange Blues" is all McLean on an explosive blues with the rhythm section. A generally strong set chiefly recommended to Jackie McLean completists.
This is one of the great Jackie McLean albums. After nearly a decade away from recording, the veteran altoist teamed up with his son, René McLean (who triples on tenor, soprano, and flute), pianist Hotep Idris Galeta, bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Carl Allen for a very passionate and high-powered live set. Whether it be originals by René (including "J. Mac's Dynasty") or Galeta, a very intense version of "A House Is Not a Home," or Jackie's "Bird Lives," this is dynamic and consistently exciting music. The go-for-broke solos (which transcend any easy categories) and Jackie's unique sharp tone make this an essential CD, one of the top recordings to be released in 1990.
Among the many saxophonists who have been influenced by the Hall of Fame composer, arranger, educator and alto master Jackie McLean, three stand out: alto sax prodigy Christopher Hollyday, Dr. Steve Lehman, and now composer, arranger, alto/tenor saxist, and Canadian jazz scene impresario Cory Weeds. All three of these musicians were able to develop their own styles. This recording harkens back not only to McLean’s days at Blue Note records, but to countless past and present saxophone-organ-guitar-drum combos that have a special place in the hearts of many jazz fans. This is an enjoyable blowing session of the first water that McLean himself might have delighted in as this potent quartet gives their own interpretation of some of his compositions. Joining Weeds in this tribute are master guitarist Peter Bernstein, first-rate organist Mike LeDonne, and drum master Joe Farnsworth. Three songs of this tribute are from the McLean “Consequence” session with Lee Morgan.