Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jackie McLean - Demon's Dance (Blue Note. 1967)

This was alto saxophonist and composer Jackie McLean's last album for the Blue Note label for almost 30 years. In some way it was a retrenchment of his past - McLean was at his core a bebop musician and while he had taken advantage of the progressive jazz moment and introduced modal and free elements into his playing, they were never the focus, just aspects of a wonderfully wide ranging talent. The music here is open minded hard bop, performed with Woody Shaw on trumpet, Lamont Johnson on piano, Scott Holt on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Most of the music here is taken at a brisk tempo, as if the band wanted to go out swinging. "Floogeh" brings the angular bebop at it's best with McLean's alto sounding tart and citrus and Shaw is the perfect foil, primed after working with the late Eric Dolphy, and in the midst of his own period of making classic Blue Note records like Into Something and Unity. The beautiful "Message From Trane" is a heartfelt tribute to the passing of John Coltrane, played with deep spirit and fire. Balancing these intense tunes is the sweet ballad "Toyland" which has the band throttling back and caressing the gentle song. This was a good album which combines the progressive jazz McLean made on LP's like Destination Out and Let Freedom Ring with the traditional bebop of one of his early Blue Note records, Tippin' the Scales. It shows Jackie McLean as a multi-faceted musician, comfortable in any situation and playing heartily and thoughtfully throughout.
Demon's Dance -

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