Saturday, April 01, 2006

Unfortunate losses

Via DJA: Jackie McLean and Don Alias both passed away this week.

I'm not nearly as familiar with Jackie's music as I should be, which I'm rather ashamed to admit. It's really a pity that I'll be checking his work out under these sort of circumstances. I've heard nothing but good things in regards to his involvement with education at the Hartt School.

I'm no expert on Don Alias' work either, but I remember the first time I heard Jaco's opening salvo of "Donna Lee" on the self-titled record. While Jaco's bass playing is quite incredible, the simpatico he had with Don, and Don's responsiveness, was really quite impressive. His multifaceted expertise on both kit and percussion graced many records, and was always tasteful. The first record I heard him on, if memory serves me correctly, was Herbie Hancock's The New Standard. He never got in Jack DeJohnette's way.

The one thing that strikes me at the news of any musician's death is how cultural history seems to fade away, and that I'm saddened by the possibility of youth growing up in a world devoid of such work. Will kids born today know what McLean, Alias, Steve Lacy, Derek Bailey or Elvin Jones did? Will they know about Ray Charles or Johnny Cash past what was portrayed in the movies?

7 comments:

DJA said...

Jackie is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz. He was one of the few hardboppers to seize on the possibilities that Ornette was opening up for everyone. One of the the greatest changes-players of all time, he decides to embrace the freedom of greater harmonic abstraction and sophisticated forms, with thrilling results. He's less abstract and more emotionally direct than Dolphy, and he understood that mood, atmosphere and vibe could be just as powerful as full-bore pyrotechnics. His collaboration with Grachan Moncur, who wrote most of the tunes on One Step Beyond and Destination Out, is one of the most sympatico relationships in jazz.

Grachan must be devastated by Jackie's passing. Those guys really loved each other.

DJA said...

I forgot to mention, the best way to get those records is the Grachan Moncur Mosaic Select box. You get Jackie's One Step Beyond, Destination Out, Hipnosis and (most of) 'Bout Soul, plus Grachan's Evolution and Some Other Stuff. Absolutely essential stuff, IMO.

Ryshpan said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Darcy. The McGill library has a fair amount of Jackie McLean (as well as Moncur's Evolution), though not One Step Beyond or Destination Out. I'll keep an eye out for those records.

DJA said...

though not One Step Beyond or Destination Out.

Why does that not surprise me...

His earlier straightahead stuff is amazing too, of course, but for me, what's truly remarkable is the arc of his career, the evolution from his early days as the hard-bop alto player to his truly innovative 1963-1968 records. Jackie was among the first -- if not the first -- to successfully bridge the gap between free jazz and bebop. Virtually everyone playing today is hugely indebted to that legacy.

Definitely check out Grachan's Evolution as well any 1960's McLean Blue Notes you can get your hands on. (Kevin Dean will have them all.)

nd said...

Yeah those are great records--one of the pleasures of the RVG series lately has been the discovery of a lot of McLean sides I'd never heard, some of them among his best (Action in particular is amazing stuff). My favourite's still Let Freedom Ring--surely his masterpiece?

He was still on his game in later years too--I remember a great concert I caught in the 1990s, not the world's most inspiring band but when Jackie soloed it was riveting. There's a later album called The Jackie Mac Attack which is worth grabbing if you can find it--very on-the-hoof, a lousy piano & the recording's not wonderful but it's just burning stuff. A funny solo cadenza at the end of the album constructed out of mismatched bebop tags.

Christopher Smith said...

David, if you think the McGill Library needs a record, by all means submit a suggestion! They are STARVING for students and faculty to let them know what to acquire. Cynthia Lieve (possibly the best music librarian I have ever known) is very jazz-friendly (did you know she dated Scott LaFaro in university?) and will take suggestions very seriously. She knows the McGill jazz collection is seriously underrepresented, and needs our help.

Ryshpan said...

Wow, I didn't know that about Cynthia, Chris. I will definitely give them suggestions. About a year and a half ago they went out and bought a ton of modern jazz that they were lacking - Dave Douglas, Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch, Chris Potter, David Binney - so they're definitely amenable to it, I know.