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Jackie's Bag (1959)

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Paul Chambers

Jackie's Bag is split between two different recording sessions: the first, from January 1959, was the first session Jackie McLean ever led for Blue Note, and the second was a sextet date from September 1960 that featured tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks as a co-leader in all but name. According to the liner notes, McLean's first date produced only three songs of releasable quality, all of which are included here. Six tunes were cut at the Brooks session, all of which were issued in Japan as Street Singer and half of which appeared on the original Jackie's Bag LP; the CD reissue includes all six, making it the definitive word on both recording dates. Given the transitional time period of the first and Brooks' musical taste on the second, the music on Jackie's Bag finds McLean in a staunchly hard bop mode, with occasional hints of adventurousness. While McLean's debut performances are certainly well done, the most distinctive appeal of the album lies in the Brooks collaborations. There are exotic flavors to McLean's terrific "Appointment in Ghana" and Brooks' "Isle of Java"; of the newly added bonus tracks, Brooks' "Medina" has a particularly complex and memorable theme, and his "Street Singer" was actually issued on his own Back to the Tracks album as well. Despite crucial contributions from trumpeter Blue Mitchell and drummer Art Taylor, the real focal point of these performances is the complementary interplay between McLean and Brooks, the latter of whom does a nice job of matching the former's legendarily hard-edged tone. McLean devotees will want this anyway, but the quality of the Street Singer material pushes Jackie's Bag far beyond a simple gap-plugging historical release. ~ Steve Huey