[JPL] God Bless Jackie McLean
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Sat Apr 1 00:28:35 EST 2006
Jazz alto saxophonist Jackie McLean dies at 73
HARTFORD, Connecticut --Jazz alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, a
performer and educator who played with legendary musicians including
Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, died Friday. He was 73.
McLean, a contemporary of some of the 20th century's most famed jazz
musicians, died at his Hartford home after a long illness, family
members told The Hartford Courant.
McLean was founder and artistic director of the Jackie McLean
Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford's Hartt School. He and
his wife, actress Dollie McLean, also founded the Artists Collective,
a community center and fine arts school in Hartford's inner city
primarily serving troubled youth.
University of Hartford President Walter Harrison said Dollie McLean
called him Friday with news of her husband's death.
Harrison said that despite his many musical accomplishments, McLean
was a modest man whose connections with his students lasted for
decades after they left his classroom.
"He fully understood the way that jazz as an art should be passed down
to students," Harrison said. "He saw his role as bringing jazz from
the 1950s and '60s and handing it down to artists of today."
McLean, a native of Harlem in New York City, grew up in a musical
family, his father playing guitar in Tiny Bradshaw's band. McLean took
up the soprano saxophone as a teen and quickly switched to the alto
saxophone, inspired by his godfather's performances in a church choir,
he told WBGO-FM in Newark, New Jersey, in an interview in 2004.
McLean went on to play with his friend Rollins from 1948-49 in a
Harlem neighborhood band under the tutelage of pianist Bud Powell.
Through Powell, McLean met bebop pioneer Charlie "Bird" Parker, who
became a major influence on the young alto saxophonist.
He made his first recording when he was 19 on Miles Davis' "Dig"
album, also featuring Rollins, which heralded the beginning of the
In the 1950s, McLean also played with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey's
Jazz Messengers, experiences that he credited with helping him find
his own style.
"I never really sounded like Bird, but that was my mission," McLean
said in the WBGO radio interview. "I didn't care if people said that I
copied him; I loved Bird's playing so much. But Mingus was the one
that really pushed me away from the idea and forced me into thinking
about having an individual sound and concept."
McLean made his first recording as a leader in 1955. He drew wide
attention with his 1959 debut on Blue Note Records, "Jackie's Bag,"
one of dozens of albums he recorded in the hard-bop and free jazz
styles for the label over the next eight years. His 1962 album "Let
Freedom Ring" found him performing with avant-garde musicians.
In 1959-60, he acted in the off-Broadway play "The Connection," about
jazz musicians and drug addiction. McLean, a heroin addict during his
early career, later went on to lecture on drug addiction research.
In 1968, after Blue Note terminated his recording contract, McLean
began teaching at the University of Hartford. He taught jazz,
African-American music, and African-American history and culture,
setting up the university's African American Music Department, which
later was named in his honor.
He took a break from recording for much of the 1980s to focus on his
work as a music educator, but made his recording comeback in 1988 with
"Dynasty," and later re-signed with Blue Note. His last Blue Note
recordings included "Fire and Love" (1998), featuring his youthful
Macband with son Rene McLean on tenor saxophone, and the ballads album
"Nature Boy" (2000).
He received an American Jazz Masters fellowship, the nation's highest
jazz honor, from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001, and
toured the world as an educator and performer.
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