Jackie McLean: A Fickle Sonance


A Fickle Sonance


Jackie McLean (alto sax)


A Fickle Sonance (Blue Note ST-84089)

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Jackie McLean (alto sax), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Sonny Clark (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums).

Composed by Jackie McLean


Recorded: New Jersey, October 26, 1961


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

This is an interesting performance that takes place, both musically and chronologically, in a transitional zone between typical Blue Note hard bop and the then-burgeoning avant-garde. McLean's composition pushes the boundaries of tonality but in the end pulls back from the brink. A repeated bass figure in 6/4 is used as both an intro and an interlude between solos by McLean, Turrentine and Clark. The solos are based on a single tonal center in the manner of some of Charles Mingus's pieces in what he referred to as open form. Each soloist signals the end of his solo by quoting the introductory bass figure. The angular melody begins with cluster harmonies that threaten to break with tonality, but then works its way to a cadence in D-Flat major, and the solos are all based on a G Dorian scale. This tritone relationship is probably no coincidence, given the deep bebop roots of all five players. McLean' s intense, driving solo is more harmonically daring than those of Turrentine and Clark but still deeply rooted in Bird.

This track is expertly propelled by one of the finest rhythm sections of the time. It also serves as a reminder of what a fine player Tommy Turrentine was. The last few times I heard him were in the early '90s, outside the 42nd St. station of the Sixth Avenue subway, where he teamed with saxophone legend George Braith in what must have been the hippest street band on the planet.

"A Fickle Sonance" is a useful historical document of a time when many jazz musicians were struggling, not always successfully, with striking a balance between tradition and innovation. The problem of providing the soloist a suitable framework in a piece that deliberately breaks from conventional song form is one that most jazz musicians still haven't figured out.

Reviewer: Kenny Berger

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