Oct 20, 2009
Jackie McLean was approaching the top of his game when he went into Rudy Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, fifty years ago today. He was leading a quartet that day composed of McLean on alto sax, Walter Bishop Jr. on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Art Taylor on drums.
He had graduated from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1957, and was a sought after sideman, working with Sonny Clark (the classic Cool Struttin'), Donald Byrd, Mal Waldron, and starring on Charles Mingus' seminal Blues and Roots, all over the previous 18 months. He was a rising star on Blue Note Records.
The October 20, 1959 sessions (whihc resulted in the album Swing, Swang, Swingin') featured jazz standards ("Stablemates") and standards, like "Let's Face the Music and Dance". Click here to listen to McLean's version of "What's New?", a ballad composed by Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart twenty years earlier. The song had been introduced by Bob Crosby and His Orchestra with vocalist Teddy Grace that year, rising to number ten on the pop charts. Bing Crosby would take it to number two the same year.
Four months later, McLean would enter the same studio with Freddie Redd to record the music most closely associated with the first part of his career, Music from "The Connection", an off-Broadway play which featured McLean playing and acting onstage.