Jackie McLean: Jacknife (1965-6) Blue Note/ UA

Leader of the pack of United Artists’ Blue Note “twofer” Reissue series. I started writing this a while back, then it slipped my attention as I went chasing Prestige. In the midst of the holiday season, I thought I might just finish off the post for an easy life, in between trips to the beach and the brasseries. It reads just the same, apart from the suntan lotion stains and Mojito watermark.

(Apologies, there seems to be all sorts of problems with WordPress, server update issues, duplicate postings, things appearing and disappearing, looks like a lot of their team are on summer leave)

jackie-mclean-Jacknife -front-1800-LJC 1 Selection 1: Moonscape

Artists: Quartet Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Larry Willis (piano) Don Moore (bass) Jack DeJohnette (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 18, 1966 Selection 2: Climax

Artists: Quintet/Sextet Lee Morgan / Charles Tolliver (trumpet ) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Larry Willis (piano) Larry Ridley (bass) Jack DeJohnette (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 24, 1965

Music

A heady combination of post-bop, avant-garde, and soul jazz, recorded on the cusp of the sale of Blue Note to Liberty.

Double trumpet, irrepressible Lee morgan and thoughtful Charles Tolliver, inspired thinking, less familiar names in the rhythm section – Don Moore, and two Larrys. Intended to be released as Blue Note BLP 4223 Jacknife and BLP 4236 High Frequency, instead, Liberty gave priority to re-issuing the grand back-catalogue, and these sessions were perhaps out of favour with Libertys’ pursuit of West Coast sunshine and funkier sounds. These sessions still smell of ’60s cigarette smoke-filled New York air.

The tapes languished in the Blue Note vaults for a decade until Michael Cuscuna discovered them and produced this double-helping for United Artists. Jacknife should already be on any jazz-lovers shelf. If it is on your shelf, and you haven’t played it a while, give your turntable workout and ears a treat.

Vinyl: BN-LA 457-H2

Issued by United Artists latter part of the ’70s For disciples of the Evil Silver Disk™ CD issue, someone came up with an inspired pastiche of a Reid Miles cover, with very effective typography lookalike of the shatter family of fonts. Or did Reid have artwork already prepared? Makes you wish Blue Note had actually delivered this, like it should be on vinyl, with a heavy laminated cover, it just looks like it belongs in a Blue Note collection. (In passing, the CD issue is itself quite rare and commands a hefty price tag). 51qfc-uDINL[1] A little more attractive than the plain beige of the twofers, but the covers do not speak for the music within, razor-sharp Van Gelder recordings which United Artists engineers manage to capably reproduce. As Cuscuna said, the only thing you have to do to a Van Gelder recording is keep your hands behind your back and not mess it up. Jackie-McLean-Jacknife-label-1000-LJC Gatefold: Jackie-Mclean-two-fer-gatefold-1800 jackie-mclean-Jacknife--back-1800-LJC-1 Collectors Corner

Some of the mid-’70s twofer series are a must, especially the Booker Ervin/Horace Parlan sessions, and the Freddie Hubbard double. Among the duds in my opinion are the Art Pepper sessions, Gerry Mulligan,  Horace Silver Trios (some better than others) , Herbie Nichols, Jean Luc Ponty, Cecil Taylor (!!! or may be that’s just Cecil)  and the painful Chick Corea title. The Sam Rivers Involution title is borderline, the Coltrane/ Paul Chambers title is “enigmatic”, but so cheap you have little to lose.

In many cases the good ones are high quality Van Gelder recordings that for one reason or another never made it to vinyl at the time. Many are not even really “reissues”, making their first appearance on vinyl in the twofer series.

The twofers are vastly superior product compared to the end-of the-decade Liberty/ United Records Inc. LT series, which despite being derived from the same musical stock I find sonically very disappointing, and can’t understand why, it was just four or five years after the twofers were released. I have around ten US LT series issues collected in the early days, and mostly they don’t cut it, and the straightjacket uniform  covers don’t help.

The UK pressed editions are poorer still, suggesting third or fourth generation tape transfers sent to the UK. May be we deserved it, a #BostonTeaParty pricetag. If you must, avoid the UK releases and stick to the US.

LT-series LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30Perhaps there are some of your much-loved albums among those titles here in the LT series (just a sample pictured above) . The music is mostly fantastic, taken from the same peak period of Blue Note output, and they sell for next to nothing, cheap as chips. Don’t be put off by my take – speak your piece, recommendations welcome, I’m often um sometimes um very occasionally wrong.

Andrew Hill’s Dance With Death is still a personal favourite despite the sonics, but my three or four Mobley and Morgan titles do not have the life I think they should have, or may be I miss-heard. The floor is yours. Just don’t get any beach-party sand in your keyboard. And no jumping up and down throwing high-fives.

UPDATE August 8, 2015

Reader Rolfe has reminded me not all “twofers” are the beige cover series. Some, like Art Blakey Live Messengers (BN-LA 473 J2) have a different non-beige photographic cover – this one at least is a goodie, previously unissued discoveries.

Art Blakey Live Messengers
Then there is a further Blue Note artist last name series with colour “dot-screen” covers, called Blue Note Jazz Classics Series, or Re-issue Series.

BN-LA-Twofer-litho-series

I don’t have any of these – I have avoided them, for some reason, perhaps assuming they are compilations of previously released tracks that I probably have already, so the material is less compelling – and I am less confident on sound quality.

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25 thoughts on “Jackie McLean: Jacknife (1965-6) Blue Note/ UA

  1. Mosaic has printed the sixties performances in a good box set (i have the Evil Silver disk version) but sound quiet good….

  2. I have a copy of McCoy Tyner’s “Cosmos” from this series which, while the music (particularly McCoy’s playing) is fantastic, the sound just doesn’t grab me the way I wish it would. Not that it sounds BAD, but that sonic quality and feel just aren’t there. Still I would highly recommend it, as WELL as Andrew Hill’s “One for One” from this series. Amazing music regardless.

  3. Andrew, Thanks for this column! I happened along to my fave record store armed with my Londonjazzcollector cell phone weapon, and what lay there just calling my name? The Booker Ervin and Freddie Hubbard Re-Issues. Both cut-outs, but media M- for a grand total of $20!
    Your weapon is mighty powerful, and I’m afraid in the wrong hands it may cause great enlightenment, entertainment, and loss of income. Oh, wait… those must be my hands!

    All the best,

    Daniel

  4. This is my favorite set of the series, closely followed by the Herbie Nichols and Booker Ervin….It’s hard to recall now, when nearly every record seems available across formats, just how difficult it was then even to hear Monk’s BN sides for example, or Rollin’s Vanguard sessions, or the Navarro, or early Pepper. They really weren’t around. These reissues and first-issues were seismic when they came out in the mid-70s.

    As for the LTDs, I’d put Morgan’s TOMCAT and McLean’s CONSEQUENCES alongside their very best records. Same with the Grant Greens.

  5. In the Blue Note Classics series the album by Harold Land (“Take aim”) is a very fine one! Sleeves of the Classics series are really ugly & tasteless and they remind me of cheap New Wave / Post punk albums released in the 80ies (Cocteau Twins and the like…).
    One of my alltime fave jazz records happens to be a brownish twofer: “Back from the gig” by Booker Ervin. Got it as “Happy frame of mind” by Horace Parlan as well. A DMM (oops!) pressing. Hmmm, should check if there is any difference in sound in both these records……
    Also, the “Hypnosis” twofer by Jackie Mclean with the snakecharmer-like title song is a top notch jazz record!

    • About 20 years ago picked up a small collection of the unreleased Blue Note titles and the only one I could afford was Horace Parlan’s – Happy Frame of Mind BLP-4134. It was a Plastilyte test pressing with the Van Gelder stamp and “ear” and was unplayed. It plays beautifully…. I don’t understand why it was never put into production. I’ve seen the stereo version on Popsike so Blue Note had made test pressings of both mono and stereo. It could be that the stereo version had an imperfection and they put the remastering on the back shelf and never got around to it.

      • Hmmm, closer inspection of my Jacknife copy reveals that side one is backed with side four. Weird and inconvenient when you want to hear the session with both trumpet players on it. It’s not side one and two, but side one and four, which means you gotta take out both records….

        • Music and labels are in agreement; the records are not wrongly labelled I mean….it’s just the pressing order of the sides that got mixed up!

        • I’ve seen other double lp sets that were pressed like this so people with turntables that had record stackers could listen to both sides without having to flip the record.

        • That Sides 1&3 + 2&4 thing, or variation that you have Andre, was the latest new trend that the major labels all scrambled to conform with, at the hip dawning of the early Seventies. Yuck. Here in the USA, almost everyone became hip, and yet not. “I’m into Jazz, dude. Like The Blackbyrds, bro.”/ “Oh wow! Have a nice day Sunshine.” Etcetera. (Sorry, it’s been one of those not nice days.)
          By then “electrically re-channeled Stereo” or it’s varied titles were pretty much the law of a lawyer driven land. But that was not about being hip. That was about $.
          Anyway you play it though, that 1&3, 2&4, etc. was a “what were they thinking” indicator of more dumbing down at the top of the Corp.

          • It was the heyday of record changers/stackers. But even with 1&3, 2&4 you would have to get up from your couch after 45 minutes to re-arrange the vinyl for another 45 minutes of listening unless you owned two copies of that same album.

            Strange folks who own record changers anyway. To me, one of the few advantages of vinyl vs digital is that one LP side will stop playing after a maximum of 33 minutes (Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine, Side B). Record changers marked the beginning of continuous noise pollution.

  6. My own experience of the Blue Note two-fers has been that they are at best extremely patchy. I think I now only have one — all the others have been disposed of, mainly because of poor production. I’ve had titles that sound poor, titles that are warped, titles punched off-centre. My Horace Silver and Herbie Nichols had these latter faults and after a while i found i became overly sensitive to the production faults and although the impact on sound was probably fairly marginal, i couldn’t listen to them with enjoyment. Perhaps I have just been unlucky.

    The Classics series, on the other hand, I have always been very pleased with – not that i have all that many. A Bobby Hutcherson, the Andrew Hill (indispensable), the Wayne Shorter (a surprisingly good record by any criteria)…

  7. I have this music as an Evil Silver Disk™ CD issue and it is one of my favourite McLeans. I have just assumed that the bright yellow artwork with the shattered writing on the CD was from a Blue Note original issue. It certainly looks the part. Ignorance is strength etc……..(Also,have a listen to “Vertigo” – another Evil Silver Disk™ CD issue with similarly styled artwork and fine quality music from different sessions in 1962/3 – with the trumpets of Byrd and Dorham and pianos of Hancock and Clark!).

    • More on this is now to be found on LJC’s new post “Hipnosis” 19th August. Very confusing for an old jazzer like me.

  8. Do any of your two-fers have a Van Gelder Stamp? I’ve seen Plastilyte pressings of unreleased titles that later ended up on the two-fer albums. I’m wondering if they used the Van Gelder masters for these pressings. My Kenny Burrell Prestige green label two-fer, All Day Long & All Night Long, both have the Van Gelder and they sound amazing.

    • That’s interesting, and surprises me because it means Van Gelder mastered them. Maybe he created the master lacquers back in the ’60s and they just didn’t get used until the ’70s? I always assumed he didn’t do any work for Blue Note (well, United Artists) in the ’70s…?

      • None of the twofers I have seen have Van Gelder stamp, just a near-blank run out with the letters “UA” scratched, with a fine stylus.

        My understanding is that in the mid ’70s Van Gelder was freelancing for a number of labels and his stamp became block Capitals “MASTERED BY VAN GELDER” as found on some Muse, Savoy, Uptown and selected Mosaic.

        May be Cuscuna missed a trick, but the twofers were all mastered by anonymous UA house engineers. The quality is embedded in the original van Gelder tapes.

  9. Downloaded my pirate copy, high quality Flac files which I then burnt to disc, then downloaded the cover art and personnel listing, printed out on thick hi-res paper. cut and mounted in a jewel case. Very happy with it.. Sorry.

  10. Picked it up for $15 a few months ago. Great stuff. The covers on this series always seem to have water/coffee/wine/beer stains on them and the records have never been played.

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