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Destination Out (1963)

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Larry Ridley

Like Eric Dolphy before him, Jackie McLean sought to create a kind of vanguard "chamber jazz" that still had the blues feel and -- occasionally -- the groove of hard bop, though with rounded, moodier edges. Destination Out! was the album on which he found it. Still working with Grachan Moncur III and Bobby Hutcherson -- his direct spiritual connection to Dolphy -- McLean changed his rhythm section by employing drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Larry Ridley. This combination proved a perfect balance of the four elements. The program is four tunes, three of which were written by Moncur. If there was a perfect Blue Note session after John Coltrane's Blue Train, this was it. Opening with a ballad was a novel idea in 1966, but McLean uses Moncur's love and hate to reveal all the tonal possibilities within this group of musicians, and the textural interplay that exists in the heightened sense of form, time breaks, and rhythm changes. As begun on One Step Beyond, the notion of interval is key in this band, and an elemental part of Moncur's composition. The horn lines are spare, haunting, warm, and treated as textural elements by Hutcherson's vibes. On the tune "Esoteric," Hutcherson and Haynes throw complex rhythmic figures into the mix. Moncur's writing is angular, resembling Ornette's early-'60s melodic notions more than Coltrane's modal considerations. Hutcherson's solo amid the complex, knotty melodic frame is just sublime. "Khalil the Prophet" is McLean's only contribution compositionally to the album, but it's a fine one. Using a hard bop lyric and a shape-shifting sense of harmonic interplay between the three front-line players, McLean moves deeply into a blues groove without giving into mere 4/4 time structures. The architecture of his solo is wonderfully obtuse, playing an alternating series of eighths, 12ths, and even 16ths against Hutcherson's wide-open comping and arpeggio runs. The set ends with Moncur's "Riff Raff," a strolling blues that makes full use of counterpoint on the vibes. Moncur sets his solo against McLean's melodic engagement of Hutcherson, forcing both men into opposition positions that get resolved in a sultry, funky, shimmering blues groove. Of all of McLean's Blue Note dates, so many of which are classic jazz recordings, Destination Out! stands as the one that reveals the true soulfulness and complexity of his writing, arranging, and "singing" voice. ~ Thom Jurek