Selection: Message From Trane
Woody Shaw (trumpet, flugelhorn) Jackie McLean (alto sax) Lamont Johnson (piano) Scott Holt (bass) Jack DeJohnette (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 22, 1967
Musicians of Note: yes, Woody Shaw! And a very early appearance of Jack DeJohnette, just finding his musical feet, and whose long career saw him described as more than a mere drummer, but “a percussionist, colourist and epigrammatic commentator mediating the shifting ensemble densities”. Sounds good to me. As a measure of his standing in 1968, DeJohnette joined the Bill Evans Trio, and then replaced Anthony Williams in Miles Davis live band, being primary drummer in the landmark Bitches Brew sessions.
Demon’s Dance is McLean’s last but one US recording and the end of a long run of albums for Blue Note. Recorded in 1967 but not released until 1970, it is not as far out as some of his previous work, digging more into the mainstream, but avant-leaning, and modal. The whole session swings hard, thanks to drummer Jack DeJohnette,’s “busy, kinetic style“. He is granted a little solo space on the selection Message From Trane.
Pianist Lamont Johnson and bassist Scott Holt both return from McLean’s previous outing, New and Old Gospel, and Woody Shaw is in fiery form, an equal partner to Jackie in the ensemble, and makes this an album worth seeking out just for Shaw’s contribution. Woody Shaw is a firm favourite here at LJC, and unusually Wiki writers go the extra distance in appraising his innovative and masterful trumpet style, so I’ll let them do some of the heavy lifting:
Woody’s “attack” was remarkably clean and precise, regardless of tempo, with a rich, dark tone that was distinctive with a near-vocal quality to it; his intonation and articulation were highly developed, and he greatly utilized the effects of the lower register, usually employing a deep, extended vibrato at the end of his phrases. Shaw also often incorporated the chromatic scale, which gave his melodic lines a subtle fluidity that seemed to allow him to weave “in and out” of chords seamlessly from all “angles”.
Not long after this recording, Mclean disappeared, one of many falling off the register of Blue Note artists as the label changed direction to pursue more funky soulful artists, turning his attention to few touring opportunities and academic position in jazz education. McLean briefly reappeared five years later in Denmark recording for Steeplechase, but his music education role became his main life’s work thereafter.
Vinyl: BST 84345 Blue Note Division of Liberty, Liberty/UA Europa – Italy
by is credited to Bob Venosa, a leading light of Surrealist Spiritual Fantastic Realism school, whose work is well suited to LP and CD covers and student bedroom posters. UPDATE: However the cover art is actually a section of a 1965 work “Time” by Mati Klerwein. (hat tip, LJC reader and man-who-knows-his-art, Pete Downs)
The vinyl is Italian. Sounds good, but alas no Van Gelder, clearly the metal didn’t travel. Goes well with some proscuitto and my preferred Italian vino bianco, Soave Classico, or at a stretch, Sicilian whites – Etna Bianco, or any from the house of Donnafugata.
This record has been somewhat hard to find, resulting in an interim CD purchase (shudder) some years ago. There is no shortage of McLean material on my shelves, in fact, the “M” section as a whole is significantly overweight – Mobley, Morgan, McLean, Monk, Mingus, but it was that cover that commanded my attention. Very much of its time, sister to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew cover, by the same German visionary artist Mati Klarwein. When you see it (which I hadn’t before) you just have to have it.
The original artwork source: