The Jazzcat

Our Beloved and Wonderful Jackie McLean has left us

by on Apr.02, 2006, under News

Memorial services for Jackie McLean will be held on Friday, April 7

at 10 a.m. at: Abyssinian Baptist Church, 32 Odell Place (138th St.), between Adam Clayton Powell & Malcom X Boulevards

Rev. Calvin Butts officiating


Thursday, April 6th, 2006

5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Benta's Funeral Home

630 St. Nicholas Avenue

(at 141st Street ~ across from

Harlem School for the Arts)


The McLean Family

261 Ridgefield Street

Hartford, CT 06112

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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

hard-bop style.

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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