Jackie McLean: Demon’s Dance (1967) Blue Note: Liberty/UA – Italy


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

Cover design 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.

Buona giornata!



Collector’s Corner

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:



19 thoughts on “Jackie McLean: Demon’s Dance (1967) Blue Note: Liberty/UA – Italy

  1. If you like woody shaw also check out Tyrone Washington ‘ Natural Essence ‘ (BN 4274). Just picked up a copy of it recently and like it very much.

  2. Jackie’s Steeplechase albums are great, I have New York Calling which features the wonderful Billy Gault on piano, and The Meeting with Dexter Gordon, a date that blows hard and even features Mclean’s voice doing introductions (live set). I know he has a few more and they are likely just as good as the two mentioned.

  3. Great review of a great LP. The cover art is actually by Mati Klarwein, part of a bigger painting called “Time” from 1965.

    • “Design” credit on the cover is quoted as Bob Venosa, but you are quite right, it’s a central selection from Mati Klerwein’s Time (1965). Well spotted.

      It’s not like Bob Venosa would try to steal credit for the artwork, so why they would not credit the actual artist must be down to … money?

      Umm … you can see why they cropped the picture where they did. If you look closely (graphic Parental Advisory)

      • Re: Mati Klarwein.
        Unless it was just an oversight that Mati’s name was left off. On Santana’s Abraxas Venosa is credited with graphics but Mati does get the artist credit on that one.

  4. Thank you LJC for another wonderful review. And the incomparable Jack DeJohnette is a living legend among jazz drummers – and he’s also a pianist with at least one piano recording to his credit. This McLean recording pre-dates my familiarity with him. Jack went on to perform with the Charles Lloyd band (w/ Cecil McBee and Keith Jarrett) through the late 60’s; they seemed to be the token jazz band at various “love-in” rock concerts during that period. Probably a great music-expanding experience for the young rockers. Jack’s association with the Keith Jarrett trio (including Gary Peacock on bass) lasted for over 30 years (sadly disbanded in late 2014). And while all of this was going on, he fronted various lineups in his New Directions and Special Edition bands, plus worked with Chicago’s AACM. He’s a musician to hear live if the opportunity is available.

    And not to flog a dead horse, but I noted that Wiki described Shaw’s trumpet as “a rich, dark tone that was distinctive with a near-vocal quality to it”. More that once I’ve noticed that reviewers use “vocal quality” as high praise for a jazz horn player. Curious that such high praise is comparison to a singer.

  5. Just received Demons Dance short time ago, thank you Discogs. Haven’t managed to play it enough yet, sounds like a busy date which would take some time to digest.
    BTW LJC thats the 1st time i see an Italian Blue Note, how is the sound quality & pressing on this one ?

    • The first I have seen too. It’s a Van Gelder recording, so the quality is there from the off, and they haven’t messed it up. I listen to it and nothing strikes you as bad or wrong, its quite acceptable.

      • Thanks, thats good to know.
        My friend has an Indian BN pressing in his 2nd hand record shop, still not feeling brave enough to try & have a listen…

  6. I am very grateful for your excellent website and have learned a great deal from your careful well documented research. You have inspired me to at least nibble at the edges of Blue Note vinyl. I have purchased some very sound Liberty Records (the most recent is a VG++ copy of Jackie’s Bag) and am now considering some earlier material. However, Lexington DGs are still a pipe dream for me! Your section on how to identify Blue Notes and Prestige has saved me years of study. I am also indebted to you for hours of enjoyable reading. However, I would suggest that for someone like myself who welcomes BOTH Vinyl and Digital Jazz and Classical music into his library that you continue to teach us about vinyl without bashing CDs. I have read and listened to endless arguments about the superiority of one or the other format from musicians and sound engineers and have my own experience with these two mediums. I am enthusiastically devoted to both. The only thing more awesome than your intellectual mastery of the subject of Jazz Vinyl is your sincere love of the medium!

    • Thank you for kind words, always welcome.

      My “war” with the “Evil Silver Disc” is to a degree tongue in cheek. I have a thousand CDs and whilst I find original vinyl the superior listening experience, CD is the only available format for some music not issued on vinyl. My only bete noir is the cynical transfer of digital recordings onto vinyl, faux retro, unforgivable.

      When I first started writing on the subject, five or six years ago, the hifi forums were replete with almost death threats between analog vinyl aficionados, and digital activists. Poke this wasps nest with a stick, I thought.

      The music is of course the important thing. However, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say I think it sounds better on original vinyl, though only if you spend an inordinate amount of time and money on the playback system and its infrastructure. Anywhere below that, it’s up for debate.

      I put a lot of the empathy between my system and analog recordings from the ’60s to my phono and pre-amp valves – both matched pair new old stock Telefunken valves manufactured in Berlin in the mid ’60s: a close match to the technology the music was recorded with. They get on well together.

  7. i hadnt seen this before, but then two days ago i heard a lot of people talking about it, and then suddenly it was on LJC. now i must search!

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