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Jackie McLean: Nature Boy

Jim Santella By

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At 67, Jackie McLean sounds better than ever. Highly recommended, his latest album surrounds that distinctive alto saxophone tone with a seasoned trio, presenting classic songs – the kinds of songs that got us interested in jazz in the first place. "Nature Boy" swings lightly with a loose bebop flavor after McLean first offers the melody straight and with serene melodic shades. The dramatic changes in mood and tempo take the listener on a trip from dreamy ballad land to a place where bop is king and improvisation reigns. Bassist and pianist stretch out throughout the session with spontaneous interludes to complement McLean’s fluid bop-charged lines. The unpredictable manner in which his alto saxophone portrays each chorus differently brings pleasant surprises along the way. There’s none of that harsh, biting, jangling of the nerves that up-tempo bebop and hard bop can sometimes bring. Instead, McLean starts with a roster of pretty songs, surrounds himself with artists who match his mastery, and then portrays the music with a lively bounce that flows seamlessly from start to finish.

Title: Nature Boy | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Naxos Jazz


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