Jackie McLean - Let Freedom Ring To Destination...Out! Revisited

2 Classic Blue Note Albums on 1 CD

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2023 release

 

Jackie McLean had always been a highly emotional soloist, so it makes sense that he was one of the first hard bop veterans to find a new voice in the burning intensity of jazz's emerging avant-garde. McLean had previously experimented with Coltrane's angular modes and scales and Ornette's concept of chordal freedom, but Let Freedom Ring was the landmark masterpiece where he put everything together and ushered in the era of the modernists at Blue Note. A number of saxophonists were beginning to explore the ability of the instrument to mimic human cries of passion, and here McLean perfected a long, piercing squeal capable of expressing joy, anguish, fury, and more.

The music on Let Freedom Ring remained more rooted in hard bop structure than Coleman's, and McLean was still recognizably himself, but that was precisely what was revolutionary about the album: It validated the avant-garde aesthetic, demonstrating that it had enough value to convert members of the old guard, and wasn't just the province of radical outcasts. There are only four pieces, one of which is the surging Bud Powell ballad "I'll Keep Loving You"; the other three are McLean originals ("Melody for Melonae," "Rene," and "Omega," dedicated to his daughter, son, and mother respectively) that spotlight his tremendous inventiveness on extended material and amaze with a smoldering fire that never lets up. Pianist Walter Davis takes the occasional solo, but the record is McLean's statement of purpose, and he accordingly dominates the proceedings, with the busy, free-flowing dialogues of bassist Herbie Lewis and Ornette drummer Billy Higgins pushing him to even greater heights. The success of Let Freedom Ring paved the way for a bumper crop of other modernist innovators to join the Blue Note roster and, artistically, it still stands with One Step Beyond as McLean's greatest work.

Steve Huey

 

Like Eric Dolphy before him, Jackie McLean sought to create a kind of vanguard "chamber jazz" that still had the blues feel and -- occasionally -- the groove of hard bop, though with rounded, moodier edges. Destination Out! was the album on which he found it. Still working with Grachan Moncur III and Bobby Hutcherson -- his direct spiritual connection to Dolphy -- McLean changed his rhythm section by employing drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Larry Ridley. This combination proved a perfect balance of the four elements. The program is four tunes, three of which were written by Moncur. If there was a perfect Blue Note session after John Coltrane's Blue Train, this was it.

Opening with a ballad was a novel idea in 1966, but McLean uses Moncur's love and hate to reveal all the tonal possibilities within this group of musicians, and the textural interplay that exists in the heightened sense of form, time breaks, and rhythm changes. As begun on One Step Beyond, the notion of interval is key in this band, and an elemental part of Moncur's composition. The horn lines are spare, haunting, warm, and treated as textural elements by Hutcherson's vibes. On the tune "Esoteric," Hutcherson and Haynes throw complex rhythmic figures into the mix. Moncur's writing is angular, resembling Ornette's early-'60s melodic notions more than Coltrane's modal considerations. Hutcherson's solo amid the complex, knotty melodic frame is just sublime. "Khalil the Prophet" is McLean's only contribution compositionally to the album, but it's a fine one. Using a hard bop lyric and a shape-shifting sense of harmonic interplay between the three front-line players, McLean moves deeply into a blues groove without giving into mere 4/4 time structures. The architecture of his solo is wonderfully obtuse, playing an alternating series of eighths, 12ths, and even 16ths against Hutcherson's wide-open comping and arpeggio runs.

The set ends with Moncur's "Riff Raff," a strolling blues that makes full use of counterpoint on the vibes. Moncur sets his solo against McLean's melodic engagement of Hutcherson, forcing both men into opposition positions that get resolved in a sultry, funky, shimmering blues groove. Of all of McLean's Blue Note dates, so many of which are classic jazz recordings, Destination Out! stands as the one that reveals the true soulfulness and complexity of his writing, arranging, and "singing" voice.

Thom Jurek

(752156116523)

SKU 752156116523
Barcode # 752156116523
Brand ezz-thetics / Hat Hut Records

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