Jackie McLean

Guillaume Belhomme traces the saxophonist's life to his first recording in 1951, thereafter shifting emphasis to his musical development


To enjoy this book you’ll need some interest in McLean and the ability to understand French without looking up more than an odd word or two.

There’s plenty of biographical detail, much of which was new to me and of considerable interest, but once the author reaches the first significant recording (in 1951 with Miles Davis) the biographical background continues but emphasis shifts to the details and assessments of this and future recordings.

These are considered in some detail up to 1968 and the last of McLean’s sessions for Blue Note, taking up some 65 pages. In contrast, subsequent recordings, up to the last in 1999, are treated as less significant and dealt with in 17 pages only.

Without close musical analysis but with perceptive commentary the author traces McLean’s musical development, search for identity, flirtations with the innovations of Ornette Coleman, and eventual stylistic consolidation. He also covers his subject’s later work in rehabilitation of drug addicts and in music education.

The text is accompanied by 10 pages of black and white illustrations, mostly derived from record sleeves, and followed by recommended recordings and literature.

Jackie McLean by Guillaume Belhomme. Pb; 107pp; illustrations, discography, bibliography of 17pp. Éditions Lenka Lente. ISBN 978-2-9545845-4-6.