Jackie McLean was an hour late arriving at the D.C. Space Friday night and was a bit shaky getting started. But once he got going, he blew alto saxophone passages that swelled with resonance. He laced them together with rousing rapid runs in both bebop and modal styles.
McLean is a part of many famous stories about Charlie Parker when the latter was falling apart personally and revolutionizing jazz professionally. Unlike other Parker heirs, such as Sonny Stitt and Lou Donaldson. however, McLean doesn't coast on his legend. Last night he played with all the fire Parker bequeathed him.
McLean's set was unusually mainstream for D.C. Space. He slipped in some free jazz sections, but mostly it was blues and standards played with bop changes at bop tempos. Hunching forward slightly, McLean bore down on the instrument. Though he didn't sustain passages very long, he flew through progressions and over-whelmed them with harmonies.
Before he arrived, the trio played a disjointed set typical of pickup bands. Pianist Sonelius Smith played short doodling phrases that went nowhere. Bassist Kiyoto Sujiwara sounded inexperienced but promising. Drummer A. R. Mitchell, by contrast, was a power-house; he rolled different rhythms into big climaxes. McLean and Mitchell dominated so much at times that the group sounded more like a duo than a quartet.