New Wine, Old Bottles: Jackie Mclean (1960) vs Jackie Mclean (1978)


Selection: Appointment in Ghana (recorded 1978)


Jackie McLean (as) Ron Carter (b) Tony Williams (d)  Hank Jones (p) Recorded April 6 & 7, 1978 at Sounds Ideas Studios, NYC, recording engineer David Baker

Original: Appointment in Ghana (recorded 1959)  BLP 4051 Jackie’s Bag

4051-McLean-Bag--front-1600Blue Mitchell (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone) Kenny Drew (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Art Taylor (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 1, 1960 engineer van Gelder

Has Jackie’s wine aged well?  We ask our guest Master Sommelier, LJC

ljc-sommelier What a  difference nearly twenty years makes. Jackie’s Bag way out in front. The sound of Van Gelder, Englewood Cliffs, Plastylite,  the seamless flow of musical communication between the superb line up, urgency and energy driving the performance.  Unfairly its a sextet, but a reminder of Blue Note at its best.

On the 1978 quartet version, things are looser, more spacious,  . Jackie’s alto is recognizably sharp, but after the song’s headline statements, his phrasing more tentative, meandering through his solo, looking for a direction to pick up and struggling to find it. Carter has been at the energy drinks again, bopping along infectiously, Williams has mellowed, and what to make of Hank Jones spacey solo? This is a Jackie McClean Tribute Band, very nice, but does not match the fire or sense of purpose of the music in its time. Perhaps it is too much to expect that it would.

Lafite_3_1[1]In mitigation, New Wine in Old Bottles cost one twentieth the price of Jackie’s Bag. It is perfectly acceptable table wine but an unequal contest versus well-aged Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1959, old wine in old bottles.

With exceptions which you will no doubt throw at me, musicians do not generally age well. Those still standing are ushered into the Hall of Fame, dined at the White House, bestowed with honours, rightly given the recognition they richly deserve, but that is entirely separate from their playing.

This small experiment suggests  there is not be a lot to be gained from following the later manifestations of musicians from the golden era, when there is still so much of their vintage gold still to be mined. That rich seam remains stubbornly rooted in the decade between 1956 and 1966.

Time to ask for the bill. That’s two bottles of the 59 Lafite. Your round I think?

Vinyl: Inner City IC 6029 US first release, late Seventies

The Inner City label,voted the 1979 Record Label of the Year in the International Jazz Critics Poll, is fairly commonplace in the second-hand record and for late seventies/ early eighties the vinyl is  not at all bad, but what a strange provenance. Licensed from Nippon Phonograph Co., Ltd/ East Wind Music Inc., Tokyo. Business Plan: get together some of the jazz greats, record them in New York, release it for the Japanese market, and then license it back to the yanks. Velly good crack.



They even wrote proper liner notes back in 1959

LJC Thinks…

4051 McLean Bag  rear 1600The issue is, I think, that musicians should never stop evolving, but keep moving forward, build on the past and not repeat it.

The same rule, incidentally, probably applies to listeners.

Back to the wine analogy, a few years back I spent what at the time seemed an inordinate amount of money for a bottle of wine, the famed New Zealand Sauvignon blanc Cloudy Bay.

Tasting Notes: This wine really can claim iconic status. It was the one that made the world take New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc seriously – and still makes wine lovers swoon today.  A real show-stopper

All I needed was a special occasion to live up to this special wine, which I set aside for best. Months came and went and no day seemed special enough; months turned into years, and still no occasion was deemed special enough. You can guess what happened. When a really special day finally arrived, I opened that special bottle of Cloudy Bay, only to find it had gone off, and had to pour it away down the sink.

I am not sure I learned anything profound from this experience, other than that not all wine ages equally well. Other conclusions you can draw for yourself.

11 thoughts on “New Wine, Old Bottles: Jackie Mclean (1960) vs Jackie Mclean (1978)

  1. I do have the McLean albums mentioned and I hardly play the New Wine Old Bottles one. Generally I agree with you that some musicians during a certain ‘vintage’ in their lives produce their strongest work and do not age well. I have for the most part given up trying to acquire and listen to the entire output of my favorite artists.

    There are however many exceptions. The prime example in jazz would be Miles Davis. He was someone who never looked back and was often ahead of everyone else, including his audience. He was never interested in repeating his past output and even when he arguably did, it would sound different, sometimes dramatically so. Constantly evolving, I consider his music of the 1970s equally as good and as valid as the stuff he did with his classic quintets of the late 50s and 60s.

    If you consider the ‘greats’, there are other examples to be found: Ornette, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, etc. Equally, there are counter-examples. For instance, I don’t think Bill Evans ever reached the heights of his early to mid 60s trio work, and Keith Jarrett these days seems to be repeating himself (enjoyable as it is).

    I know the Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc – it’s meant to be drunk young I think? 😉 Perhaps the lesson here is simply some wine (musicians) are meant to be appreciated early during their prime while others may also be enjoyed much later.

  2. I have seen Wayne Shorter live for the past five years, and will see him again at the London Jazz Festival, and he keeps innovating. He is one of the very few that remain interesting.

    • this could be the matter for a future post: we both agree (anyone wellcome) that very few artists remain interesting after the initial explosion: who they are? and for each one: which are the records to be recommended? I’m the first to be interested.

  3. Dottore: the concert you refer to was issued in 1994 on CD by Europe 1. Trane is boo-ed by the public in a rather disturbing way. it is all on record. Rather shocking.
    I agree with you, when musicians are young and have that spark of Genius, they are more interesting than after a maturing period..
    Trane is a case apart, although, after the departure of McCoy he went into directions which I don’t like too much. Warne Marsh is an other example of a constantly maturing musician, giving more and more of himself..

    • Speaking of late Coltrane: a favourite session, and one that I feel is a bit underrated, is “Expression” (especially the title track). Cook and Morton dismiss the recording quite casually, and try to fit it into their idea that Trane’s final years were a period of inevitable decline. Much more perceptive is a review that I’ve photocopied from an old Rolling Stone guide, where the writer suggests, a propos Expression, that “the melodic sweep tempers the more abrasive aspects of the free style”. Couldn’t have said it better!

      Maybe it could be worth a second try, Rudolf?

  4. Last night I was reading the Ashley Kahn book A Love Supreme and found this: during the last concert tour with Miles, 1960 in Paris, Trane had a bad wellcome by the audience, he played in a different way French fans were accustomed to (Kind of blue was just out on the market). Frank Tenot, the impresario, told him he was too far out and Trane replied: no, i’m not enough. He was one of the few musicians to age musically well, searching new directions for his whole life.
    the great majority of jazzmen instead, success reached, stopped moving forward and repeated themselves for years or decades. was their source withered? was it more comfortable to give the audience what the audience expected?
    I am interested into new ways of expression, something I never have listened to. this is the main reason why I don’t like later works even by artists I love. their older, but newer music, is enough for me.I don’t like to listen to something a musician has already said. anytime I tried, I went back to the past. McLean is no exception.

    • Dottorjazz,
      I was at the Queen City Jazz Festival in Cincinnati in 1965. Trane was the final act. Fifteen minutes into his set, during which the audience booed and stamped their feet, most of the audience got up and headed for the exits.

      • John,
        thanks for info: in 1965 Trane played several Jazz Festivals at home and abroad, Pittsburgh June 16, Newport July 2, Europe July 26-August 1, Cincinnati August 14, Chicago August 15, Columbus August 28. In all these dates Trane played with the quartet. In September he enlarged his group with Sanders, Garrett, Brazil, Ward, Ali; Frank Butler or Terry Clarke sat in for Elvin in a couple of times.
        Then: Juno Lewis for Kulu Se Mama and for an unsolved mystery, Archie Shepp.
        We know that Shepp recorded the whole A Love Supreme with the quartet the year before but we can only hear him in the very last bars of part four, Psalm. He’s uncredited on Impulse A 77. Let’s go back to the evening of August 15, Sunday. Down Beat Jazz Festival in Chicago: Shepp was featured with Trane’s quartet. It’s not sure what they played exactly but a 36’30” composition was performed and Trane stated the Ascension theme near the end (Ascension was recorded in June 1965). Anyway this concert received an extremely negative review, Walmsley for Down Beat, Sept 1965. Maybe this for the delusion of the critic willing to hear a live version of A Love Supreme (played and recorded the month before in France).
        My question for John: did you hear the Quartet or the group with Shepp added?
        Can you refer on the music played?

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