Jazz

Get On The Scene

20 SEP 11 CHRIS SLAWECKI

The list of sidemen for the 1956 OJC date McLean's Scene illustrates the elite company which alto saxophonist Jackie McLean kept: Drummer Arthur Taylor, bassist Paul Chambers and pianists Red Garland and Mal Waldron, plus trumpeter Bill Hardman, with whom McLean played in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

If it seems too convenient to compare the McLean/Hardman sax/trumpet frontline sound to this era's Miles Davis quintet with John Coltrane, that's how inventively McLean and Hardman play. It helps that Taylor, Chambers, and Garland comprised one of Davis' favorite rhythm sections, too. (More careful listening reveals that McLean actually played like Sonny Rollins, but somewhat more emotionally direct.)

Though it seems possible that McLean's Scene might have gotten lost among similar bop quintet titles when it was originally released, Concord's digital catalog keeps it available, which is a good thing. McLean's vision, wit and energy in just the Gershwin's "Love is Here to Stay," for example, prove worth your visit. "Outburst" blasts out of its opening downbeat with explosive momentum, and few pianists could set the improvisatory table like Garland's spread, on which the saxophonist gorges, in McLean's centerpiece title track. This single tune embodies the contemporary jazz shape and sound of its era.

Waldron, Chambers, and Hardman starred on McLean's OJC release Jackie's Pal: Introducing Bill Hardman (1991), while Taylor drummed on McLean's Lights Out! (OJC, '91), both of which were also recorded in '56.