Jackie McLean: “Action” (1964) Liberty/Blue Note


Track Selection: Hootnan


Charles Tolliver (tp) Jackie McLean (as) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) Cecil McBee (b) Billy Higgins (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 16, 1964


Recorded in 1964 on the coat tails of some of McLean’s best titles One Step Beyond (4137) and  Destination…Out! (4165)  the previous year, it fitted well with McLean’s new trajectory, moving on from Bop towards more adventurous music. The sidesmen are likewise drawn from the school sympathetic to a more free approach, fizzing with energy, liberated from the role of “rhythm section”. This is exciting stuff, Mclean’s biting acidic alto partnered with Tolliver’s spicy trumpet and Hutcherson’s cooling vibes, in a potent cocktail.Higgins powers along keeping time on the cymbals, while hitting the rest of the kit for accents, whilst McBee’s bass treads a path through the melange. Great jazz.

Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 4218 mono NY labels VAN GELDER stamp, no “ear”

One of the thirty or so Blue Note releases whose first pressing was after the sale of Blue Note to Liberty, so the absence of the Plastylite “P” is to be expected. Van Gelder mastering, and pressed by Liberty’s acquired  plant  All-Disc, Roselle, New Jersey. To my ear every bit as good as any NY original Blue Note: fresh bright lively engaging, you can’t beat it, ear or no ear.

The cover design is of course a negative photographic image,  very typical of “new thing” graphic design in the Sixties – taking the familiar and standing it on its head. I couldn’t resist inverting it back to a positive to see how it started life. Judge for yourself which you prefer. I prefer the positive as it’s a great atmospheric photo of Mclean in action, but the inverted cover image is a more authentic “Sixties” view on the world, a time before the art-cliches of punk that still dominate graphic design today.


Collectors corner

From a Soul specialist store in West London, not their usual fare, an unexpected find which illustrates LJC’s Second Law of Record Collecting, that good things are not always found where you expect. If there was a perfectly-targetted store called, say, Mister Rare Collectible Jazz, its shelves would be permanently empty as hundreds of hungry collectors would shuffle through every day. This  happens with one shop I know in central London, where anything good that comes in disappears within hours of being put out on the shelf.

I commend the principle of The Random Shuffle. Not a dance craze or pelvic thrust routine from The Rocky Horror Show, but occasionally scanning for things in the “wrong” place, because the stuff in the right place is all gone. However, random  also includes looking frequently in the right place too. (That’s the First Law by the way.)

7 thoughts on “Jackie McLean: “Action” (1964) Liberty/Blue Note

  1. You have a lovely first pressing of this LP! The last ear or P (Plastylite) Blue Note was Don Cherrys’ “Complete Communion” 4226 or 84226. There are 10 or so Blue Notes with numbers lower than 4226 which were first released after the Liberty Records sale as you noted. I used to have the list of these exceptions memorized but not any more. You have keeper copy for sure!


  2. This is such a great album. I have a Liberty pressing with the mostly black with light blue label. It was pressed wildly off-center, but after a little work with a round file, and a couple of seconds to manually center it before play, it sounds great.

    I’m also looking forward to the new AP Prestige series. I can’t afford originals, generally, so the more decent reissues, the better. I certainly can’t afford original Blue Notes and Prestige records, so…


    • The “unaffordability” of BN and Prestige originals seems an increasing problem. Too many collectors, not enough originals. Our friends from Tokyo and Moscow seem to have deep pockets, and I notice arbitrageurs more now on ebay – dealers buying to sell on. It all pushes prices out of reach for “ordinary” collectors, so I have some sympathy. It’s only going to get worse, so I still think it is a good time to buy.
      People tell me an Eighties revival is on the way. And CDs will be the next big thing. Wake me when it’s over.


  3. Perhaps you could carve an ear into the deadwax and see if the sound improves? I hear some of the more zealous Blue Note collectors have had excellent results with this technique 😉


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