Jackie McLean: Swing Swang Swingin’ (1959) Blue Note


Liberty Stereo Cover, but wait – Always Read The Label!

Selection: Let’s Face the Music and Dance (Irving Berlin)


“There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance”


Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Walter Bishop Jr. (piano) Jimmy Garrison (bass) Art Taylor (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 20, 1959


McLean brings his sharp alto tone  to bear on popular tunes of the day, you know all the words, There may be trouble ahead... Great song, great tune, sentiments you can all relate to, and all the better for McLean’s “no words required” approach. The other tracks follow the same theme, like I’ll Take Romance.

1959Recorded for Blue Note at the end of 1959, an influential year for McLean, arguably the apex of Mclean’s bop trajectory. In that year he recorded with  Mingus (Blues and Roots, Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting), and shortly after, took a part in the New York  junkie house-band on stage in Freddie Redd’s music from The Connection,  before moving progressively further and further out in the course of the early ’60s. But always recognisably, that acid sharp tone. AllMusic note:

 McLean sounds invigorated here, catapulting each melody forward before launching into a series of impassioned improvisations….Swing Swang, Swingin’ may not be as groundbreaking as Mclean’s more modernist work, but it’s a solid session from an artist just beginning an incredible hot streak.

Jumping Off Point: Walter Bishop Jr.

LJC-Lichael-Caine-fastshow30Walter Bishop is a great asset to this Mclean date, maintaining the momentum of the tunes behind Mclean’s ascerbic explorations. Bishop’s trademark is terse, punching accompaniment, with lines flowing over changes.

Bishop was an early member of the Art Blakey start-up Seventeen Jazz Messengers in the second half of the ’40s, a highly talented but financially-unsustainable jamming band in which all the leading names of the day appeared, including Powell himself and Monk. Sadly the history of this talent-pool remains largely in reminiscences of unrecorded club dates.  As the Jazz Messengers membership slimmed down to a commercially-viable working line up in the mid-50s  Bishop was replaced by Horace Silver.

A Powell-inspired player, nothing wrong with that, Bishop did not record as leader until the ’60s, forming his own trio with Jimmy Garrison and GT Hogan. Like many musicians hailing from the hey-day of Bop, by the ’70s, he largely disappeared into music education and teaching, disappearing completely in the ’90s. AllMusic’s assessment of Bishop as a “valuable utility pianist” seems a bit harsh: he does a great job in enabling McLean to shine, which is a valuable enough contribution.

Vinyl: BN 4024  mono, RVG and ear, 47 West 63rd label

This was one of the first handful of Blue Note to carry the INC and R marks of Blue Note’s incorporation So far so good,  but Popsike premium-price sales suggest it should be DG both sides, so it is not possible to rule out a later pressing run here, but only by a short space of time . I am sure Mr Cohen has something to say about it.

One thing stands out,  A-1 and B-1 matrices. Bad day at the studio, Rudy? Unlike my original thoughts, it is probably a good sign. Van Gelder wasn’t happy with the first cut and thought he could do better.


Photoshop-fake mono rear cover, actually a Liberty stereo cover, but hey, cut me some slack, the liner notes are the same. (Shh! Our secret). Notice that the footer of the Liberty rear cover notes “An original Stereo Recording” –  i.e. not pseudo (fake) stereo.


Collectors Corner

The only difference between mine and this one on Ebay is the cover, which mine lacked. ;-(  Oh, and mine’s not got a yellow label. Some people just haven’t got a grip on camera white balance.

Jackie McLean Ebay $800 Capture

And it cost less than $800. On top of it’s game, Swing Swang Swingin’  max’s at a little over $1200.

This record was another victim of London’s light-fingered record cover shop thief. (I’d take his off at the tone arm) My gain, the seller’s pain, I guess, under circumstances I would not have wished. It is now housed in “reduced circumstances”, tucked up in a Liberty Stereo cover. Anyone spot a VG original cover with a G- vinyl, tip me off.




8 thoughts on “Jackie McLean: Swing Swang Swingin’ (1959) Blue Note

  1. I see now that the back of the cover is split. It could be the reason for the slightly lower price. I’ll have to stay with my “King” copy, which is not bad. The price is out of my league and I”m still not set up for mono records.


  2. The same seller has this album up now for a fixed price of $699. This one has deep grooves on both sides and rated “VG++ Beautiful no background distractions.” The photos have the same yellow tint. I can’t make out any details about the cover or inner sleeve.


  3. I’m not the greatest fan of alto sax (partly because when I was starting to play tenor the sheet music given out with the tune heads was usually the twiddly alto part in e flat, which I struggled to transpose to b flat and which often made little sense as a tenor line, other than to show up my poor musicianship to the legions with altos who were zipping along).

    This album, mainly made up of standards, is in my collection but rarely gets played (although I have a couple of individual albums, this lurks in the Real Gone Jazz Jackie McLean set, which I bought to see if there was anything I could get excited by). Listening again today, the only track which appealed to me was the closing blues, 116 and Lenox.


  4. Nice Jackie McLean ablum. I have a reissue in Hi-Fi mono, catalog # BLP 4024. I hadn’t thought about trying to put my hands on an Ear copy, but now I might look around.

    I love Jackie’s purposeful sharp intonation on the alto. An instrument suited for a slightly sharp sound if one so wanted to play that way. It’s funny, when I first took notice of Jackie’s intonation and half interval chords, I thought he could not play the horn, or was tone deaf. I mean any high school band teacher would have kicked him out of the band for playing that sharp.

    But then I understood; he played that way on purpose. Then I thought again, why would he do that., and came to my own conclusion; he played that way because he could. He heard the music that way. His sound, he owned it, just like the master Miles Davis said a jazz musician should. Beautiful, Jackie’s lonely, haunting and bluesy sound always reminds me of a lost soul in the wildness, trying to find its way home.

    Thanks LJC. There is a lot to discuss and review here. And after you are done with Jackie, may I recommend Mr. Eric Dophy, who I have not been able to understand or catagorize in my thinking after many years of listening.


  5. ………Speaking of Liberty weirdness, I just received a Liberty issue of Lonnie Smith’s ‘Think!’ and it didn’t have the VAN GELDER stamp but some ‘M DG’. Even inside the gatefold cover it has Recording By (Name Escapes Me) not Van Gelder, but he is listed as the Engineer on the Gokudo site. The cover has Promotional Copy stamped on the cover……My apologies LJC for going a little off track from your post but any help would be….Helpful….



    • Liberty Blue Note output was divided between the reissue of past recordings from the Blue Note catalogue they acquired (many with van Gelder recording and master), and new issues, with which mostly they had to fend for themselves. In between, there were some prepared for Blue Note but first released by Liberty.

      I don’t know much about these later mostly “funky” new titles, maybe someone has some wisdom to share?


      • This album was one of very few Francis Wolff era Blue Notes – between 1967 & 70 that wasn’t recorded at Rudy’s place. Instead it made at Plaza Sound Studios NYC with Dave Sanders as the engineer.
        Oddly this was a run of three sessions in July 68 that were all recorded there – a rejected McLean, and Hutcherson’s beautiful ‘Total Eclipse’ – was Rudy on holiday?


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