Jackie McLean (as) Kenny Drew (p) Bo Stief (b) Alex Riel (d) recorded at “Jazzhus Montmartre”, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 5, 1972
Jackie’s discography skips a full four years from 1968 to this recording at the age of 40, an absence of four years, during which Jackie had – well, put on a few pounds, from the looks of his cover. Another American who “sent out for a Danish” and decided to stay a while, in the company of expatriate jazzers Dexter Gordon and Kenny Drew.
1972 was not a not a promising year for jazz. With such an enormous significant body of work behind him, Mclean embodies the great artist’s problem, what to do now, as ever-restless audiences shrank or move on following the pied piper of novelty, new faces and new sounds. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for greats whose ranks have been thinned by the grim reaper, whose raison d’etre is to play improvisational jazz, and eschew the lure of rock and electric instruments to reach ever larger concert audiences. Miles managed it (not successfully, in everyone’s opinion), but McLean?
His solution, an academic tenure, and – Copenhagen in the early Seventies – sounds a good one to me. Two years of recording for Steeplechase, a quick tour of Japan where audiences appreciated jazz, followed by peripatetic appearances back in the US recording with other greats of the bop era, now seniors.
Sample of “museum” jazz recorded at Carnegie Hall”, NYC, April 6, 1994: Jazz Masters: Roy Hargrove, J.J. Johnson, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, Pat Metheny, Christian McBride, Ray Brown, Al Foster Museum or not, I would love to have been there to hear that, what a line up.
Vinyl: Steeplechase SCS 1001 Denmark 1972
That catalogue number – 1001 – sounds to me like the beginning of a series. Founder Nils Winter built the Steeplechase label out of recordings of visiting American Musicians to Copenhagen, and I guess this was among the first .Steeplechase are not especially rare records, nor expensive, but I had never seen this one before, and as Monmartre 1, is a little bit special
Liner Notes: Monmartre Jazz 1 – I like that.
One item from the treasure trove of a collection of quality jazz in North London in the last few weeks. Word spread out on the collector grapevine of this collection.
Soon as I heard I was on a serious of tedious bus rides and costume changes (left: headgear favoured by North London student types) to the outer northern reaches of my great city. Much seeking of directions from natives: Crouch End? Eh? Much had already gone, but that is how it goes in collecting. A few times I have been first on the scene, and it is a joyous feeling. This time, cherry-pickers had taken the obvious gems,
But there were still enough items to satisfy, which will appear here at LJC in coming weeks. If you are interested, the Coltrane Blue Train original was still on the wall as I left, at £500, too rich for me.
The Jazzhus Monmartre, Copenhagen, is still firing on all cylinders – date coming up includes 50 years of jazz with Bo Stief, featured on this record. Looks an interesting place, and the artists a bit more interesting than our own Ronnie Scotts.
An excellent blog dedicated to recordings made in live jazz clubs is Speakeasy Around Midnight, with a section on Cafe Monmartre recordings, among a hundred or so different venues from Sweet Basil to The Five Spot, Lighthouse Hermosa Beach, The Blackhawk SF and many more. Nothing like having a good idea, only to find someone has got to it first, damn. Well worth a look.
A full listing of the Steeplechase catalogue here. Any recommendations welcome.