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Capuchin Swing (1960)

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Jackie McLean

One of McLean's more underrated albums from a plethora of Blue Note releases, 1960's Capuchin Swing finds the bebop alto saxophonist in fine form on a mix of covers and originals. While McLean's future fascination with Ornette Coleman's free-form innovations can be sensed in some solos here, the majority of the album is in a classic hard bop vein. Like contemporaries Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, and Lee Morgan, though, McLean doesn't just churn out pat jam-session fare, but comes up with consistently provocative charts and solos. Eschewing any ballad cuts, McLean focuses on mid- to fast-tempo swingers and blues. Standouts include originals like "Francisco" and "Condition Blue" and choice renditions of "Just for Now" and "Don't Blame Me." McLean enlists a sparkling lineup of hard bop stars, including trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Walter Bishop, Jr., bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Art Taylor. Mitchell particularly impresses, matching many of McLean's own inspired flights with his supple and progressive playing. Along with other fine Blue Note titles like Jackie's Bag and Bluesnik, Capuchin Swing makes for a great introduction to McLean's extensive catalog. ~ Stephen Cook