When you listen to Jackie McLean on 4, 5 & 6, his third releae as a leader, you hear a young, passionate, hungry artist in search of a musical identity. The influence of Charlie Parker on his sound is obvious. The seemingly indelible marks left by Bird are present throughout all of McLean's '50s sessions for Prestige.
4, 5, & 6 is a strong outing for the legendary alto saxophonist and his swinging rhythm section of pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Art Taylor. Detroiter Donald Byrd joins in on trumpet for the recording's two original compositions, Waldron's "Abstraction and Kenny Drew's "Contour. Tenor great Hank Mobley makes the group a sextet on Parker's "Confirmation.
The relaxed tempo of "Sentimental Journey leads off the set and provides a soft cushion for the quartet to settle in. McLean plays a superb solo in characteristic bop fashion, combining logical lines and lyrical phrasing with a piercing, volatile, yet beautiful tone. The two other quartet pieces are also standards; "Why Was I Born? and "When I Fall in Love both have a straightforward approach with solos by McLean and Waldron.
Donald Byrd's melodic prowess is a welcome addition to "Contour and "Abstraction. The latter, a haunting ballad, showcases the trumpeter on an expressive muted solo. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Byrd sticks to the middle register and emphasizes lyricism over showmanship.
4, 5 & 6 is a fun, swinging document of an inspired blowing session with some of the hippest musicians of a bygone era. It's exciting to hear McLean, so rooted in bebop, moving forward in identifiable new directions.
Personnel: Jackie McLean: alto sax; Mal Waldron: piano; Doug Watkins: bass; Art Taylor: drums; Donald Byrd: trumpet
(3,4,6); Hank Mobley: tenor sax (4).