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  Jackie Mac's One Step Beyond  
  by Dustin Garlitz  
     
 

       January 2005:

      During the year 1962, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean left New York to play a series of gigs in Boston.  During his New England engagement he was introduced to 17 year old drummer Tony Williams.   McLean liked Williams’ playing so much that he invited him to stay with him in New York and make a few needed connections on the jazz scene there.  Jackie introduced the public to Tony with his 1963 album One Step Beyond.  This Blue Note album included two original compositions by the alto saxophonist and two originals by trombonist Grachan Moncur III.  Vibe player Bobby Hutcherson is also featured on the album; his surreal, dreamlike harmonic textures significantly add to the date’s creative output.  As well as penning half the album, McLean also wrote the liner notes for the session.  One Step Beyond opens with a composition entitled Saturday and Sunday.  The rare edition that I have includes an alternate take of this McLean original piece.  The other one of Jackie’s compositions is called Blue Rondo.  This number is upbeat and gives Hutcherson room to stretch out while staying up on Tony Williams’ beat.  My favorite song from the session is Moncur’s Ghost Town; McLean’s improvisation on a minor blues form is sensational!  The other composition, Frankenstein, features the Moncur trademark of an out-of-time intro theme (like in Evolution).  With the wide variety contained within the four compositions, the date reaches across two genres: it is both avant-garde and hard-bop.   

       Back when Bird was around Jackie Mac use to shadow him, and even sat in with his band once (Charlie Parker would come around and borrow his saxophone on occasions.)  I would have to think that McLean learned a lot from his years in Parker’s entourage.   One day the two of them were walking down the street together and Bird all of the sudden pointed to an iced fish at the market.   He said to McLean “Do you see that?”, and Jackie responded to Bird, “Yes, it’s a fish”.  But Bird wasn’t talking about the actual fish; he was referring to the colorful reflection produced by its scales.  This is when McLean realized that Bird noticed things that other people didn’t notice.    I hear that type of ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking throughout McLean’s playing on One Step Beyond.