5 killer albums from the great Jackie McLean – all packaged together in cool LP-styled jackets! First up is Capuchin Swing – a tremendous set from Jackie McLean – perfectly poised between his hardbop and modern years, with a set of compositions that are as great as the performances! The lineup on this one's a bit unusual – with Walter Bishop on piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Paul Chambers on bass, and Art Taylor on drums – but that mix of players makes for a really unusual sound – as the rhythm section's often straight ahead, Blue Mitchell's notes are bold and sparkling, and Jackie's own solos are reaching for the darker corners of the spectrum! There's a great sense of tension here that heralds the genius of later McLean sides of the 60s – and original titles include "Francisco", "Condition Blue", "On The Lion", and "Capuchin Swing". Bluesnik is a crackling date from Jackie McLean – a set that's much more hardbop than some of his other Blue Note work – filled with fire, far from the 50s – and really pointing the way towards his new directions to come! There's a hint of modernism in the mix, mostly on the tone from McLean's alto sax – but most numbers are forward-thinking, and played with a sense of perfection that's pure Blue Note all the way through. Group members include Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Kenny Drew on piano, Doug Watkins on bass, and Pete LaRoca on drums – and titles include "Cool Green", "Torchin", "Bluesnik", "Drew's Blues", and "Blues Function". Let Freedom Ring features a young Jackie McLean at the height of his powers – really stretching out here, but never going too far out – a perfect balance between his modern bop of previous records, and his groundbreaking "new thing" jazz to come! The group is a relatively straight ahead one – with Walter Davis on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums – but the tracks are all quite long, and have this really arch sensibility on Jackie's horn – this edge, this cry he didn't have a few years before – easily one of the freshest voices in alto sax at the time, yearning here to break free with new ideas and new modes of expression. The vibe is perfectly balanced – like McLean's classic A Fickle Sonance – and titles include the classic "Melody For Melonae", plus "Rene", "I'll Keep Loving You", and "Omega". Demon's Dance is a pivotal session from the late 60s – one that has Jackie pulling things back a bit from his "new thing" period, and turning towards the spiritual soulful groove that would characterize his early 70s work! The album bristles with excitement – still very much informed by a knowledge of the space explored during Jackie's avant years, but never quite willing to go to that space – especially if it means sacrificing the soulful swing of the set! The group's filled with young soulful modernists – including Woody Shaw
, Lamont Johnson, Scott Holt, and Jack DeJohnette – and Jackie himself seems to be working out a whole new phase of his career with each new track – showing that even when he was at his "new thing" best, he was still ready to move on! Tremendous stuff, and one of our favorite Blue Notes from the time – and one of the most soulful too! Titles include "Floogeh", "Message From Trane", "Toyland", and "Boo Ann's Grind". Jacknife is a heck of an album from Jackie McLean – extremely soulful work from the mid 60s, recorded right at the height of his "new thing" period! That quality may be one reason why the session was never issued at the time (it only made a brief appearance on vinyl in the late 70s, and is finally coming out on CD) – but to our ears, it's one of Jackie's strongest from the decade, a really wonderful record that looks forward at the soulful explorations of the 70s Strata East scene. Players include Lee Morgan, Charles Tolliver, Larry Willis, Larry Ridley, and Jack DeJohnette – and titles include "Soft Blue", "Climax", "On The Nile", and "Blue Fable".