Cory Weeds – Condition Blue – The Music Of Jackie McLean – Cellar Live

Cory Weeds – Condition Blue – The Music Of Jackie McLean [TrackList follows]  – Cellar Live CL111214, 61:23 ****:

(Cory Weeds – alto saxophone; Mike LeDonne – Hammond B-3 organ; Peter Bernstein – guitar; Joe Farnsworth – drums)

Jackie McLean was a hard-bop alto saxophonist with a fiery tight tone, who recorded extensively in the ‘50s and ‘60s mainly with Blue Note Records. Although his forays with an organ was confined to two albums with Jimmy Smith Open House and Plain Talk, Cory Weeds’ decision to use an organ on this session does not stray off the mark. Condition Blue accomplishes the band’s intention, to acknowledge a saxophonist who had an exploratory vision.

In a set list of either McLean originals, or compositions associated with him, this tight-knit band delivers the goods in firm, yet flexible style. The key players in this session in addition, to the cooly effective altoist Weeds, are Mike LeDonne, a B-3 player of energetic disposition, and creative guitarist Peter Bernstein. Also along is drummer Joe Farnsworth who is a propulsive player.

The session begins with the title track “Condition Blue” which is one of McLean’s own compositions. From the getgo, this is a hard swinger with Weeds doggedly self-assured,  Bernstein then following in an unfussy fashion, before LeDonne briskly adds his voice. Another McLean original is “Capuchin Swing” which along with the previous number comes from McLean’s album of the same name for Blue Note in 1960. Driven by Farnsworth’s quicksilver drumming, Bernstein sets the pace with a long sinewy solo, after which Weeds shows that he is a skilfully inspired player.

Not to be outdone, LeDonne  chimes in with some bopish phrasing.

“My Old Flame” is offered in a relaxed groove, with Weeds running through the melody before Bernstein picks up the bridge, and Weeds again completes the theme, before taking off in solo mode. Throughout the number, the band shows that they can play with uncomplicated cohesion. The two other McLean originals are “‘Snuff” and “ Das Dat”. On the former, the number starts off with some intricate interplay between Weeds and Bernstein, before Weeds expands the theme with a sure-footed solo. Bernstein then slides into an incisive improvisation, with LeDonne swirling around on the B-3. On the latter composition, the band finds an earthiness in the structure of the tune, that inundates the music with fluency.

Of the remaining tracks, one of the more interesting is “Bluesanova” written by Lee Morgan, that appeared on McLean’s album Consequence, on which he shared the front line with trumpeter Morgan.  The band pitches their interpretation with a bossa nova time signature, coupled with a hard-bop line, and some soul-jazz thrown in for good measure. All in all, the band shows that they are sympathetic and sophisticated collaborators.

TrackList: Condition Blue; Slumber; Capuchin Swing; My Old Flame; ‘Snuff; Marilyn’s Dilemma; Das Dat; Jacknife; Bluesanova; Blues In A Jiff

—Pierre Giroux

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