Jackie McLean – Right Now! (1965)

Stark, vital and insistent, Jackie McLean’s corrosive tone and strong bop roots fed into his questing musical character which authored some of the most inventive jazz records of the 60’s such as the essential Destination Out and One Step Beyond. Even his more straight-ahead albums of the era are consistently excellent, and he found himself much in demand as a front-line voice on classic recordings by Charles Mingus, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan and others. He nurtured new talent enthusiastically, and was active in the civil rights movement lending his time to benefits for the Black Panthers and the SNCC. His commitment to the cause was implicit in the album titles Let Freedom RingIt’s Time! and Action Action Action. Nowhere was his intent more evident than the urgent Right Now!.

Leaping out of the gates, McLean leads his musicians at a galloping pace straight into his finest assemblage of modal interrogation, the searing ‘Eco’ which repeatedly veers very close to chaos. That he manages to control what threatens to become disarray is what makes his solos so breath-taking and immediate. This last-man-standing skirmish continues unabated until the very final moments. What follows is a sublime tribute to Eric Dolphy who had died only a short time earlier. A tender melancholy is solemnly affirmed by the aching bowed bass of Bob Cranshaw played beneath McLean’s mournful saxophone and a gentle piano accompaniment by Larry Willis. Time stops as the band remember their friend with great reverence. ‘Poor Eric’ is truth and beauty; weightless, egoless.
The serenity is shattered by the rapid-fire ‘Christel’s Time’, another high-voltage display of barely contained saxophone electricity featuring a rumbling drum solo by Clifford Jarvis and more great stuttering soloing by McLean during the fade-out. The album is signed-off by the slightly more relaxed but still intense title track. McLean’s dominant performance is incited by streams of notes within plenty of bluesy flavouring. The CD re-issue contains an equally incendiary alternate take of this tune, proving that Jackie McLean was near the peak of his abilities on this date.

 

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