Selection: Saturday and Sunday (McLean)
Grachan Moncur III (trb) Jackie McLean (as) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) Eddie Khan (b) Anthony Williams (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 30, 1963
In the early Sixties a group of like-minded musicians in the Blue Note stable – Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson – were given space to develop their answer to the “new thing”. – hip intelligent listening music. Sensing the same change in direction, starting with his 1961 album Let Freedom Ring, Jackie McLean left behind his hard bop home for a series of Blue Note albums of a more free modal approach, while still retaining his melodic invention and acidic rapid-fire voice. The title One Step Beyond continues the direction of “Out” – far out, introducing other players like Moncur and Hutcherson to loosen up the texture and structure.
Allmusic awarded One Step Beyond 5 stars:
One Step Beyond may have been the first volley McLean fired in the direction of the new jazz, and played it safe enough to ride out the hard bop he helped to create, but he cannot be faulted as a bandleader, as this music still sounds fresh, vital, and full of grainy mystery
I chose as selection the slightly more mainstream Saturday Sunday, in which the McLean Express is running full steam ahead under control of train driver Anthony Williams. His percussive artistry here is mesmerizing: sparks flying in all directions, relentless beats, off-beats, accents, rolls, and all that before he gets to the solo. Free-swinging, without being free, he dances and swings like hell, you have to swing your head side to side to ground the metre, to absorb it all and keep it incoming. Williams final brief solo is just the icing on the cake
There is plenty of darker and more challenging stuff among the other tracks, to please the beardiewierdies, whose favourite tracks will be Ghost Town, and Frankenstein.
What ever happened to Jackie McLean? Wasn’t that him in the Die Hard films? In 1967 his long association with Blue Note was terminated by Liberty. He embarked on touring, recording for Steeplechase, finally moving into a long career in music education.
Vinyl: BLP 4137 NY labels DG side 1 only, mono VAN GELDER and ear.
The great cover photo of Mclean, serious of purpose, has Jackie searching “out there” to the horizon from a high vantage point, underlining the idea of the ” far out” direction of the music. McLean is still the “brand” but something different is happening. A pity the manufacturing quality of Blue Note covers also started in a new direction – down. Gone are the glorious laminates of previous years.
Typography note:” one step beyond / jackie mcLean ” – all lower case except the “L” – Reid Miles always keeps you on your Toes.
Wrong cover of course – it is for the stereo while the LP is mono. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. It could be worse – it could be the other way around. You wonder how this sort of swap-over happens? Unless its a batch mismatch, someone else has the converse.
Not a record that hard to find, I have seen it quite a few times on the shelves (though not in mismatched cover) , nor does it attract a price premium. Early Sixties avant-leaning Blue Notes are great music and great value, under-appreciated compared with the warhorse collectables of the Blue Note 1500 series. (Try finding an affordable Lee Morgan original, or Sonny Clark! The Land of the Rising Yen has got it covered.) They are often showcases for artists other than the leader, as in this case with Anthony Willams, as McLean takes on the role of aggregator of other talents rather than as the traditional grandstanding leader.
All I have to do now is find a matching pair – mono cover, with a stereo edition inside.