Jackie Mac's Best Back from the Great "Beyond"
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 02/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Legendary alto saxophonist Jackie McLean made dozens of records for Blue Note, and in my opinion "One Step Beyond" is his most adventurous effort and overall best album. And, it was until now, arguably the single best Blue Note date in the catalog NOT to have been remastered in the RVG series! First released on CD in the late 1980s, the original "One Step Beyond" had a major tracking defect that caused track 2 to begin in the middle of the song. It was quickly remaindered, and never fixed until a few years ago with the issue of Grachan Moncur's Mosaic Select set. Now Rudy Van Gelder has been given the opportunity to strengthen the sound (and hopefully fix the problem) on one of the clear Blue Note masterpieces. This April 30, 1963 recording is famous for introducing the modern jazz world to four major new players -- trombonist Grachan Moncur III, vibist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Eddie Khan, and then seventeen year old drummer Tony Williams. (Hutch actually recorded earlier but these sessions have only recently emerged -- Al Grey and Dave Burns Sessions, see my review.) The musical explorations captured here are deeply searching, doing the title justice indeed, and the chemistry of the quintet is instantaneous and profound. The tracks are all amazing -- the mesmerizing polarity of "Saturday and Sunday" (an alternate take is also included), the towering, monstrous waltz of "Frankenstein," the playful "Blue Rondo," and the haunting "Ghost Town." Thankfully, this same basic group would go on to cut two more phenomenal sessions, McLean's Destination Out! and Moncur's "Evolution" (see my reviews for both titles), and while those are both classics, they are each just one step behind "One Step Beyond.""
Probably McLean's best
A.Y.H. | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 09/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This record is more than just great, although it is that too - it's _important_. Here's why:
1. This is one of a slew of sessions "Anthony" Williams recorded in 1963 (including the companion piece to this album, Grachan Moncur III's _Evolution_, which features the same band, give or take a Lee Morgan) but it is, to my ears, the first recorded evidence of Tony playing in the style for which he would soon become famous. The authority and invention he brings to the drumkit on these four tunes is breathtaking.
2. This is the best showcase for the brittle, nervous trombone of Grachan Moncur III that I've heard; his solos are uniformly compelling. He also writes two great tunes, of which the eerily insistent waltz "Frankenstein" is the best-known.
3. The interplay between Williams and Hutcherson anticipates their early peak on Eric Dolphy's _Out to Lunch_. Moncur's _Evolution_ has a similar quality, but the material here is stronger, and the performances fresher and sharper. If you're a Dolphy fan, these records should sound pleasantly familiar. Remember, though - McLean's band came first!
And, of course...
4. Jackie absolutely burns it up. His solos are much more focused than - and yet just as adventurous as - those on the overrated _Let Freedom Ring_. "Saturday and Sunday" is especially riveting. The alternate take is rewarding as well. And I love his bluesy stroll through "Ghost Town."
This should rocket to the top of your list of McLean albums to buy right away. I like the collaboration with Ornette Coleman, _New and Old Gospel_, just as much, but this is definitely the place to start for McLean."