[JPL] About Prof. Jackie McLean

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Thu Apr 6 07:37:29 EDT 2006

A vivid recollection of J Mac from a Hartford listener.
Tom Reney

I graduated from Hartt in 1982 as a music education major. My last year there I told my classical saxophone teacher that I had talked to Jackie McLean and he had accepted me as a saxophone student. I then went to Prof. McLean and told him that my classical teacher said that I should study with him.

Luckily, neither of them checked with the other so I was able to work both sides of the aisle, so to speak, and I ended up studying with Mr. Jackie McLean (a direct line to every sax players hero Charlie Parker),

During that year I had the opportunity to take lessons from him at his home where Mrs. McLean would often greet me and give me a glass of water to soak my reeds in. Then Prof. McLean (I always called him Professor out of great respect and admiration) would have me play long tones, scales and the like. The exercises he would give me to practice were aural. Not written down. It was his way of ear training. Jackie McLean would talk to me about the history of early African American music, jazz and growing up in Harlem, hanging out with Sonny Rollins, piano lessons from Bud Powell and of course Bird.

He would allow me to tape our lessons with an old reel to reel tape recorder that my family owned (the one with the single green illuminated meter to show the intensity of the decibels being laid down on the iron oxide). I would take that thing home and slow down the speed so that I could learn the complicated, asymmetrical licks that Jackie let fly with feeling just a few hours earlier. I should have practiced those licks in all twelve keys but I ended making them part of my vernacular in the original key they were played in.

Jackie would talk about phraseology and the importance of music and staying free of substances, though he would not judge you if you happened to make unwise decisions. You see, he had been there.

He would introduce his students to great teachers like Jaki Byard, Walter Bishop Jr., among others. While I was in school I had a chance to play with Sue Terry, Tom Chapin (God rest his soul), and Nat Reeves.

I'm currently listening to his music on "Jazz à la Mode" and if I close my eyes he's right here.

Peace & Love,

Michael Psutka
Hartt, 1982 

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