Steven Lugerner, Jacknife: The Music Of Jackie McLean (Primary Records)
After his studies at The New School in New York ended a couple of years ago, alto saxophonist Steven Lugerner returned home to the San Francisco Bay area and took Jackie McLean with him. Not in person, of course; McLean died in 2006, and Lugerner never met him, but the young man became immersed in McLean’s music. The audacity of McLean’s attack is apparent in everything that Lugerner plays. The aggressiveness, rough edges and incisiveness of McLean’s conception are apparent from his successor’s first solo, in “On the Nile.” If Lugerner’s pugnacity goes a bit over the top in the piece, trumpeter JJ Kirkpatrick brings the emotional heat down in the transition to his solo, and there is an interlude of relative calm before Kirkpatrick cranks the energy back up. McLean composed three of the six tunes on Jacknife. His frequent trumpet companion Charles Tolliver wrote two. Another is by drummer Jack DeJohnette.
McLean had affinity for the innovations of Ornette Coleman, and while there is no free-jazz abandonment of conventional rules in the album, Lugerner applies Coleman phrasing and harmonic leaps in “Cancellation.” The dramatic “Melody for Melonae,” introduced by McLean on his 1962 Blue Note album Let Freedom Ring, incorporates simultaneous improvisation by Lugerner and Kirkpatrick. Pianist Richard Sears, bassist Garret Lang and drummer Michael Mitchell, already making an impression on the California jazz scene, are likely to receive further attention through their work with Lugerner and Kirkpatrick in this stimulating collection.