The Blue Note label is to be thrice-blessed by Whatever/Whomever for making much of its 1960s catalog available again. This one here, A FICKLE SONANCE by Jackie McLean from 1961, is notable for a few reasons. Not least of which is 90% of what McLean did for BN in the 60s is superior to 70% of jazz albums released in the past, oh let's say, of the past couple of years. McLean's tone is rich, sinewy and very, very bright-almost incandescent. (The blues-tinged ballad "Subdued.")
The band for this date is something else: the not-exactly-over-recorded Tommy Turrentine on trumpet and BN rhythm standbys Sonny Clark, Butch Warren and Billy Higgins. Turrentine has the "BN sound," crisp and crackling, yet he sounds not like BN mainstay Donald Byrd (well, maybe a little)-a little more like Kenny Dorham, I say. Clark was not only a fine hard-bop pianist in the B. Powell mode but a dandy composer as well: witness the bright, engaging and George Russell-ish opener "Five Will Get You Ten." Warren is a rock and Higgins is, as always, fleet, inspired and inspiring.
AFS is one of those transitional sets-it's fairly straight-ahead hard bop, a little on the easygoing side, then ZAP! They hit you with some advance droplets from the New Jazz storm on the horizon. This music, to my somewhat cranky & jaded ears, still sounds fresh in 2001, and THAT's the acid test. Finally, there is the cover: a nice Francis Wolff photo of Jackie McLean's hat. I think I saw Dick Van Dyke wear a similar hat on his classic 60s sitcom.