In other words, Prestige was one of the major facilitators of the avalanche of jazz creativity at the time. Musicians were often recorded in informal "blowing" sessions, stressing solo improvisation.
This year the new partnership of Fantasy and Concord has reissued 10 of Prestige’s best in a series "Prestige Profiles." The CD, Jackie McLean Vol. 6, is one in the series. It contains a goldmine of the alto saxophonist's work recorded in 1956 and 1957, seminal years in the development of his style. He is showcased with an assorted group of stellar musicians.
Born in 1931, during the 50s McLean was perfecting his hard-bop style in the shadow of Charlie Parker, his greatest influence, who died in 1955. On most of the tracks pianist Mal Waldron, drummer Arthur Taylor and either bassist Arthur Phipps or Doug Watkins back him in quartet settings. The program consists of mostly blues and ballads.
First selection, "Strange Blues," starts with Phipps' insistent bass beat.McLean soon joins in, sustaining a relaxed, sensual groove. "Mirage" follows, displaying the expressive, plaintive tone associated with McLean. His penetrating sound then takes wings over Bill Hardman’s muted, understated trumpet-collaboration of a high order.
Two Gershwin songs show McLean’s skill with ballads. His husky tremolo shapes the soulful rendition of "Embraceable You" which also showcases the interplay between pianist Waldron and McLean. This version becomes a true call from the heart.
On the other hand , Gershwin’s "Our Love Is Here to Stay" is an up-tempo romp. Here, Jackie gives a lesson in how to fashion a solo, and the catchy start/stop interplay with Waldron is intriguing.
Another highlight on the disk is "Lights Out," an easy-flowing blues which gradually builds with Taylor’s astute drum rolls moving each player along in his solo. Midway in the number, McLean is joined by trumpeter Donald Byrd who lays down his own funky statement.
"Alto Madness" sets McLean'x full-blooded sound against John Jenkins’ delicate alto tone, making for an exciting exchange. The cut features the under-rated pianist Wade Legge binding the two with his clever comping in the background.
McLean went to success in performing and recording, going on to college teaching, developing the Afro-American Music Department at University of Hartford. This CD captures him at the time he was breaking out into the jazz world.
A bonus CD, "Profiles Collector’s Edition," is included in the package. This features single tracks from other Prestige stars in the series.