Jackie McLean – 4, 5 and 6 – Prestige LP 7048/ Analogue Productions CPRJ 7048 SA – Mono SACD (1956), 45:31 –(mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
(Jackie McLean, alto sax; Donald Byrd, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Mal Waldron, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Taylor, drums)
Continuing in the same vein as in our review of Hank Mobley’s, Mobley’s Message SACD, 1956 was a good year for jam sessions on Prestige Records. Produced by Bob Weinstock, and recorded by the legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder, Jackie McLean’s maiden effort for Prestige was recorded the same month as band mate Hank Mobley’s effort. Comprised roughly of the same group (with the exception of Mal Waldron taking the place of Barry Harris on piano), on Mobley’s session, Prestige felt it was the turn of Jackie McLean to record his own date with a mixture of quartet, quintet, and one sextet (Mobley joining in on an 11-minute extended run on Bird’s “Confirmation“).
Jackie had only one previous session as a leader, but like Mobley, his presentation was fully formed at age 24, two years junior to Hank. Jackie’s tone was more acerbic than Hank’s and he later branched out in more avant directions than Mobley, yet Jackie, like Hank, could tenderly massage a ballad with the best of the alto sax balladeers.
On 4, 5, and 6, McLean is the sole horn on standards, “Sentimental Journey,” “Why Was I Born?”, and “When I Fall in Love.” These classic tunes are done straight up with Jackie’s blues credentials in full force. Mal Waldron, who also became noted for his adventurous piano stylings, is an able accompanist, letting McLean take center stage. Doug Watkins gets a nice solo on “Sentimental Journey.”
The great trumpeter Donald Byrd (who just recently passed away) fleshes out the group to a quintet for “Abstraction,” written by Waldron and “Contour,” a composition of Kenny Drew. “Abstraction” has an introspective quality, while “Contour” has an up tempo energy provided by Donald and Jackie. It is a special opportunity to hear these two jazz giants blend so early in their respective careers.
Once again, Kevin Gray receives kudos for his SACD mastering, that like Mobley’s issue, has a polish and panache that shows the listener how well mixed mono can shine and compete admirably with stereo for listening pleasure. The rhythm section is not overshadowed by the horns, and piano, bass, and drums are fully front and center, never distant in the mix.
To hear these jazz legends early in their respective careers, blowing with such assurance, is a real treat. 4, 5, and 6 comes highly recommended.
TrackList: Sentimental Journey, Why Was I Born?, Contour, Confirmation, When I Fall in Love, Abstraction