Jackie McLean: Old Gospel
Jackie McLean (alto sax)
New and Old Gospel (Blue Note BST 84262)
Lamont Johnson (piano), Scott Holt (bass).
Composed by Jackie McLean.
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 24, 1967
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
In the 1960s, it seemed as if every Blue Note release had to have at least one grooving boogaloo-style tune—the better, one supposes, to garner radio airplay. On New and Old Gospel, "Old Gospel" fills the bill. What separates this from the average track of its ilk is the presence of Ornette Coleman, who joined Jackie McLean's quartet for this session. Ornette was years away from using dance rhythms in his own music. Indeed, at the time of this recording he was even moving away from conventional swing. Add the fact that McLean himself was venturing further and further "out," and you have something quite unusual.
The tune begins with an ordinary gospel piano vamp leading into a riff-ish head played in octaves by the horns. The solo section is built on a modal vamp. First up is McLean, who takes a bluesy, melodic tack, playing relative few notes but working up a sweat all the same. Ornette's trumpet solo follows. It's based mostly on a Bb minor scale, while the rhythm section plays in Db major: the notes are the same, but the tonal center is different, giving the solo a bi-tonal vibe. The rhythm section cooks mightily, especially drummer Billy Higgins, who displays strong gospel roots. This is a fun, smart track, showing a side of Ornette that wasn't much in evidence in those days. Could this session be seen as a first step toward Ornette's later dance-based music? Hmmm, I wonder . . .
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey