Tracks 1 to 3 recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey on January 18, 1959
Tracks 4 to 9 recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on September 1, 1960
Tracks 1 to 6 originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4051 and BST 84051.
Tracks 7-9 are bonus tracks.
Jackie's Bag is split between two different recording sessions: the first, from January 1959, was the first session Jackie McLean ever led for Blue Note, and the second was a sextet date from September 1960 that featured tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks as a co-leader in all but name. According to the liner notes, McLean's first date produced only three songs of releasable quality, all of which are included here. Six tunes were cut at the Brooks session, all of which were issued in Japan as Street Singer and half of which appeared on the original Jackie's Bag LP; the CD reissue includes all six, making it the definitive word on both recording dates. Given the transitional time period of the first and Brooks' musical taste on the second, the music on Jackie's Bag finds McLean in a staunchly hard bop mode, with occasional hints of adventurousness. While McLean's debut performances are certainly well done, the most distinctive appeal of the album lies in the Brooks collaborations. There are exotic flavors to McLean's terrific "Appointment in Ghana" and Brooks' "Isle of Java"; of the newly added bonus tracks, Brooks' "Medina" has a particularly complex and memorable theme, and his "Street Singer" was actually issued on his own Back to the Tracks album as well. Despite crucial contributions from trumpeter Blue Mitchell and drummer Art Taylor, the real focal point of these performances is the complementary interplay between McLean and Brooks, the latter of whom does a nice job of matching the former's legendarily hard-edged tone. McLean devotees will want this anyway, but the quality of the Street Singer material pushes Jackie's Bag far beyond a simple gap-plugging historical release.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
JACKIE McLEAN - JACKIE'S BAG
There is a school of thought, commonly found among observers of the various lively arts, that suffering and deprivation may lead to a greater sensitivity and more effective artistic endeavors on the part of the artist. Conversely, some of these observers find, a measure of recognition and success often tends toward a diminution of the creative processes and a tendency to sterility.
Nothing could be more destructive to this theory than the case of Jackie McLean. In the past year or so he has enjoyed a greater measure of professional security than ever before At the same time, as his work on these sides and other recent recordings indicates, he has progressed steadily. Though admittedly he made his first important contributions during a period when he was scuffling for jobs and paying the almost inevitable dues, it is none the less true that his playing and writing today indicate a degree of assurance and self-confidence that can only be born of experience and nourished by public acceptance.
Much of the recognition and security have stemmed from his appearance in The Connection, music from which was released on Blue Note 4027, by the Freddie Redd Quartet featuring Jackie McLean. Since the play opened off Broadway in July of 1959, it has attracted to the theater a flow of spectators many of whom might never otherwise have been aware of Jackie's existence. The Connection has since opened in Hollywood with Dexter Gordon's group supplying the intermittent jazz passages, and as these words were written, with the New York version well along in its second year, there was a good chance that Jackie might go with it to London.
There have been violent differences of opinion concerning the value of The Connection as a social document, as legitimate theater; but is can hardly be denied that the show has made possible, for an unusually long stretch, the presentation onstage of a brand of modern jazz not previously employed in this medium, the kind most often heard on Blue Note records.
Ira Gitler wrote of Jackie, in his notes for a McLean Quartet album (Blue Note 4024) that he "still speaks with candor, but there is more bittersweet than bitterness, and a beautiful cry that says, 'You've got to pay a lot of dues in life but it's a groove to be alive.' " I believe that in the present sides, the second half of this phrase is more strongly stressed than the first. There is in much of his work here an exultant and adult voice that shows more completely than ever the true nature of Jackie's bag.
As has been clear from the start of his career as a name jazzman, Jackie stems less directly from the Bird tradition than his fellow Blue Note alto man Lou Donaldson. There is evidence from time to time of the early impact of Sonny Rollins, with whom he played as a teenager in a neighborhood band in New York, along with Kenny Drew, one of the pianists on this LP. Whatever the influences-and undoubtedly there were others besides Bird and Sonny-Jackie did not take long to evolve his own voice.
It took him a little longer to develop as a writer. This album shows more effectively than any previous release his ability to create something more than casual unison-line frameworks.
A valuable feature here is the presence of two different personnels, with Paul Chambers as the only common factor other than Jackie himself. Of the rhythm teams, Jackie comments: "I had two wild rhythm sections-I wouldn't name either one of them as my preference. Of course, we got a certain spark, a crackling feeling, with Philly Joe back there, but AT. did just as great a job in a different way. And it's the same thing with the pianists."
Of the opening track, "Quadrangle," he says: "This was written almost four years ago. It was the type of thing I'd been working toward writing for quite a while. I had some trouble at first putting chords to it for blowing on, but I wanted to have a firm basis to play on, as well as those figures that came into my head." In other words, this is not comparable with an Ornette Coleman creation in which, after the theme has been stated, everyone takes off into outer - space. There is an extraordinarily deft mixture of unison and counterpoint in the ensemble passages, and a dramatically contrasting use of solo passages by Philly Joe.
"Blues Inn" and "Fidel," like "Quadrangle," were written quite some time ago. The blues is a very basic theme, played twice at a moderate pace before Jackie takes over for a solo that illustrates his sense of continuity and natural feeling for building, with the early passages in a lower register and a gradual increase in intensity along with the rise in pitch. Donald Byrd shows a comparable sense of form. Notice particularly how his time and phrasing change when Philly Joe slips back from double-time into the regular four. Sonny Clark's solo led me to an interesting speculation: When a pianist plays mainly single note lines, couldn't he just as well be compared with a horn soloist as with another pianist? Sonny's time, his lack of pressure and his actual choice of notes at times recall Art Farmer, though the similarity is largely obscured by the complete contrast in their media of expression. The peculiar requirements and construction of the bass make no such comparison possible in the case of Paul Chambers's solo, which one can hardly imagine played on any other instrument. The final ensemble comes to a witty and unexpected end.
"Fidel," which Jackie sums up as "just a figure," actually is a most engaging melodic theme, titled back in the days when Castro was first marching on Havana and was still a hero in the eyes of the American public (yes, time does fly). One point easily observed in this track is the manner in which Philly, rather than interfering with the soloists as has sometimes been alleged, often plays a distinct supplementary role that gives you, in effect, two things to dig at once, the solo line and Philly's; the separation and clarity of the recording thus double the interest in such passages.
The second side, featuring two new compositions by Jackie and one by Tina Brooks, has a distinctly different personality from the first in that the front line is three men strong. "It was the first time I had written anything for three horns," says Jackie "This was a challenge for me, because I didn't have much musical education and most of what I know about writing I found out for myself."
"Appointment In Ghana" leads from a slow introduction into a harmonically intriguing fast theme. Blue Mitchell's solo, though not strikingly different from the work of Don Byrd on the reverse side of the disk, seems to reflect a little more of Clifford Brown in his sound, though both trumpeters clearly imply the influence of both Miles and Diz. Tina Brooks, who can make even a series of straight quarter notes swing (as he does at one point in his solo here), is a Rollins-Mobley product who has been finding his own path, as his LP True Blue (Blue Note 4041) recently made clear. Tina was also a major contributor as a sideman on such dates as Jimmy Smith's The Sermon (Blue Note 4011).
"A Ballad For Doll" was named for Jackie's wife Dolly. Here you can observe Jackie's keenly developed faculty for blending a good melodic line with an attractive harmonic undercurrent Kenny Drew's solo, mainly chordal in concept, contrasts interestingly with the horn-like work of Sonny Clark on the other side.
"Isle Of Javo," the only track not composed by Jackie, is a slightly exotic opus that cooks from the first beat and is characterized chiefly by its whole-tone, double-augmented basis. The line itself is simple while the chord structure gives the work its personality. Tina's opening phrase is a deliberately humorous quote; the rest of his solo is full-blooded, passionate and immensely assured. Kenny Drew's driving, technically impressive solo follows; then, after Kenny has chorded gently behind the fleet Chambers solo, the theme returns. Everyone distinguishes himself on this compelling final performance, but first and foremost, of course, is Jackie himself. Both in his solo and leading the ensembles, he reminds us of the razor-sharp sound, the acute sense of time and the passionate sincerity that have come to be known unmistakably in the past couple of years as the most ingratiating ingredients in Jackie's bag.
-Leonard Feather original liner notes
A new look at JACKIE'S BAG
The fourth LP issued by Blue Note under Jackie McLean's name was truly a two-sided affair. It featured sessions recorded over a year and a half apart that, taken together, provide a telling summary of what McLean had achieved as both alto saxophonist and composer during his first decade as a recording artist.
The first three tracks, comprising side one of the original album, represent McLean's first visit to Rudy Van Gelder's studio as a Blue Note leader, and feature playing as strong as any McLean was to document on disc in his original hard-bop bag. One key factor was the rhythm section, which had previously recorded under Sonny Clark's name as both a trio and in the Cool Struttin' quintet that included McLean and Art Farmer. Clark's brilliance as both soloist and accompanist enlivens "Blues Inn" and especially "Fidel," where he spins the final phrase of McLean's four choruses into his own two-chorus gem. "Fidel" also includes amazing work by McLean and Philly Joe Jones. The composition first appeared on a 1957 Jazz Messengers session for RCA's Vik subsidiary as "Couldn't It Be You?" with Art Blakey taking a co-composer credit and what was then a three-horn front line riffing the theme behind various soloists. This version gets more pop out of Clark's comping and Jones's polyrhythms - and catch the sublime moment in the second eight bars of McLean's final chorus where the pianist answers a "Farmer in the Dell" quote with "Oo Pop a Da."
Clark does not play on "Quadrangle," which McLean had also recorded previously (on Prestige, in 1956) as "Inding." On that occasion, the theme appeared at the end of a series of blowing choruses on the same "I Got Rhythm" changes used here. On this occasion, McLean attempted to bring the solos closer to the open mood of the composition with intense strolling choruses on the same changes. Leonard Feather's comments on the track are particularly ironic, given that McLean admitted (in the notes to his Let Freedom Ring album) that "Ornette Coleman has made me stop and think," and that "Rhythm" changes "do not fit the personality of ['Quadrangle'] at all."
In the period separating this first session from the September 1961 tracks that comprise the remainder of this album, McLean had come a long way in terms of both public acceptance and resolving the dilemmas a composition such as "Quadrangle" presented. He had released three successful albums of his own on Blue Note, and had become one of the artists most closely identified with the label through his participation on sessions led by Donald Byrd, Walter Davis, Jr., Lee Morgan and Freddie Redd. McLean had also been working steadily for over a year under Redd's leadership in the Living Theater production of The Connection. For what was his fifth Blue Note date as a leader, McLean assembled two boyhood friends, Kenny Drew and Art Taylor; two compatible players who like Taylor had also participated on his previous Capuchin Swing dale, Blue Mitchell and Paul Chambers; and his Connection understudy, tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks.
The writing, divided equally between McLean and Brooks, is strong all the way around. As was his frequent practice, McLean pays tribute to family members with the richly scored Drew feature "A Ballad For Doll," for Jackie's wife Dolly, and the darkly colored "Melonae's Dance," which is harmonically drawn from a previous piece for his daughter, "Little Melonae." Most notable of McLean's written contributions, however, is "Appointment In Ghana," which employs a modal structure in its main phrase. Playing on scales rather than chord changes is something McLean first experienced with Charles Mingus, but the practice did not enter his own writing until this session. It provided an alternative to standard harmonic sequences that McLean would apply to later performances of "Quadrangle," and that served him well in the more open approach he would soon document on such albums as Let Freedom Ring and One Step Beyond.
Tina Brooks (1932-74) also excels in what proved to be the most substantial instrumental forum for his music ever documented on record. Both "Isle Of Java" and "Medina" are bold, harmonically challenging pieces, while "Street Singer" is a stretched-out blues with a melancholy cast similar to that of "Gypsy Blue," which Brooks had contributed to Freddie Hubbard's debut session Open Sesame.
"Street Singer," which also shares the plaintive vibe of Redd's "Wigglin"' from The Connection, might have become a standard had it been released at the time. Given the restrictions of vinyl, however, only half of the September 1961 session appeared on Jackie's Bag. Brooks's subsequent Back To The Tracks album, featuring the same group minus McLean on most tracks, was slated to include this version of "Street Singer," then withheld from release. The complete September 1961 session finally appeared on a Japanese LP, but of course there was no room for the January 1959 tracks. Compact disc technology allows us to hear both sessions as they should be heard in complete form.
- Bob Blumenthal, 2002