Picks and Pans Review: Dynasty
updated 09/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT
During a retrospective concert of his music this August during the Classical Jazz Series at Lincoln Center in New York City, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean was full of creative fire. "Don't burn the house down," one audience member shouted after a sizzling exchange between McLean and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. "Don't worry," McLean called back. "We've handed out asbestos suits to the people in the first two rows."
The Lincoln Center concert and this album, his first since 1977, mark McLean's re-emergence as a major player on the jazz scene. A native of Harlem. McLean was a protégé of pianist Bud Powell and at age 18 apprenticed with trumpeter Miles Davis. During the '60s he was one of the first to combine the urgent rhythms of bebop with modal harmonies on such (recently reissued) Blue Note recordings as Let Freedom Ring and One Step Beyond. Now 59, McLean has devoted most of his energy in recent years to teaching, as chairman of the African American Music Department of the Hartt School of Music in Hartford.
On Dynasty McLean comes out smoking. Pianist Hotep Idris Galeta, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Carl Allen offer torrid rhythmic backup while McLean charges through such potboilers as "Bird Lives." an homage to his boyhood idol Charlie Parker. McLean is joined in the front line by his son Rene, who plays tenor and soprano sax and flute and composed four of the 10 tunes on the album. Most effective is "J. Mac's Dynasty." a filial tribute that showcases the contrasting styles of father and son. Jackie favors unadorned, searing melodic lines. Strongly influenced by tenor saxophonists Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane, he has a uniquely resonant, tart tone on alto. Rene is more prone to honk and holler, exhibiting a bluesy swagger on tenor that complements his dad's heated romanticism. Welcome back, J. Mac. (Triloka)