Selection: A Fickle Sonance (Mclean)
Tommy Turrentine (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Sonny Clark (piano) Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 26, 1961
Amazon’s official review excels itself, so I’ll put my feet up and let them wax lyrical:
There’s a quality in Jackie McLean’s Blue Note recordings of the early 1960s, a mix of the hip (the rhythmic swagger, the confident aggression) and the searching, an exploratory fervor and questioning that subtly undermines all assurances, resulting in a distinct and genuine art. It’s akin to similar elements in his great contemporaries but it’s definitely McLean’s own. In 1961, he was absorbing modal forms into his music and they melded with his blues-based intensity, adding structural coherence to his solos.
He’s joined here by an excellent band, though two of his key partners are woefully underrated. Trumpeter Tommy Turrentine is a brassy player of the Clifford Brown school, who’s capable of genuine warmth at slower tempos. Pianist Sonny Clark is possessed tremendous linear invention and bluesy depths that complement the saxophonist’s own. Drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Butch Warren, both Blue Note regulars, complete the group
Dissonance became an important element of the post-bop genre. Used in proportion, it reveals a tension between the “right notes” and the ones outside, outside the tonal centre, creating an interest and excitement, borne of the element of surprise. As all jazz listeners understand, in music there are no wrong notes. Or perhaps it’s just a case of picking the right wrong notes.
McLean’s acid sharp alto dissonates (or whatever the correct verb of to be dissonant is) with Tommy Turrentine’s fluid glittering trumpet. Tommy Turrentine has just one title to his name as leader, for the Time label.
“As a trumpet soloist Turrentine had all the qualities necessary for greatness. He had a full, warm tone throughout the range of the instrument and possessed the ability to create solos using long unbroken lines. His flair for melodic improvisation using long climaxes often contrasted sharply with the more disjointed creations of younger men who seemed anxious to brush aside convention”. – Alun Morgan
More on Tommy Turrentine at the excellent Curt’s Jazz Café , a sort of LJC but with an added double espresso.
Tommy has rightly been described as under-rated, unlike his younger brother Stanley, whose slightly “middle of the road” tenor (apologies to his many fans) was perhaps one of the more over-recorded. To me Tommy has much of Miles and Hubbard about his voice, which is a compliment. Sonny Clarke swings ferociously, upbeat, rhythmic and bluesy, egged on by Billy Higgins powering his way behind the front line, with Butch Warren hard walking the bass.
A fascinating recording session, of a giant at the point of transition.
Vinyl: Toshiba LNJ-85017 – stereo test pressing of Blue Note BLP 4089.
I had totally overlooked the Blue Note Toshiba-EMI years prior to the more widely available King releases (1978-83) and later Toshiba (1983 to present day) . Harumph, my oversight.
According to authority on all things Blue Note in Japan, ‘Shaolin’, no sooner had Blue Note fallen into the hands of Liberty in 1966, than Toshiba began to distribute titles imported from the US to Japan, decked out with an OBI. This was followed by an unsuccessful format series of 45rpm disks, until finally in 1976 Toshiba began to release Japanese-pressed Blue Note LPs, in a series of 76 Blue Note titles, the LNJ series.
McLean’s Fickle Sonance was the last but one title in the series, and it is also my only copy in the LNJ series, which is a pity as it is sonically and musically a delight (not having an original, of course)
Blue Note acknowledged as a United Artists trademark, issued before the King Records initiative started in 1978. Toshiba was to re-emerge only later as King was dropped in favour of EMI Toshiba around 1983.
Nominated “Most Effective Use of a Hat on a Jazz Album Cover” (save my own) by LJC contributor Auguste Renoir:
“an arresting design because of Reid Miles bold decision to chop Jackie’s face in half, holding his houndstooth check hat in place as though buffeted by the musical winds of change, from The Outside. Inspired artwork, a perfect metaphor for the music, and not a musical instrument in sight.”
Liner Notes LJC-super-sharp ™ Double click for full screen, check who’s been plagiarising the Ira Gitler’s commentary.
Whilst Japanese reissues are often not as strong presentation as original Plastylite pressings, the EMI-Toshiba LNJ series, if this is anything to judge by, is worthy of attention.
Where to find them is another question, especially as your averageEbay seller thinks he has done well identifying it as a “Japanese pressing”, never mind which company and chronologically, when. Trust Microgroove.jp to have the lowdown. We all owe a debt of gratitude to MATSUBAYASHI, ‘Shaolin’ Kohji. http://microgroove.jp/bluenote-jpn/1968-1977.html for his magnificent reference source.
Re-aquainting myself with this album, as you do when reviewing it, I found it a discovery. Gives a new resonance to Weick’s quote attributed to various US presidents: “How do I know what I think till I hear what I say?”. It actually works that way.
I found myself reaching to the shelf for the original Blue Note, but returned empty-handed. Though I have all McLean’s further out subsequent releases for Blue Note, Fickle Sonance remains a gap on my shelf.
On past experience, when the reissues are this good, the originals are invariably even better, something to bear in mind when someone sings the praises of re-issues. Without a point of reference,”sounds great” doesn’t really tell you how it compares with other choices. However, this one sounds good to listen to, so it passes the most important test.
Curious if anyone else has any EMI -Toshiba LJN issues of note, and their opinion of them, for better or worse.