Jackie McLean (Photo: Courtesy Mosaic Images)
Saxophonist and hard-bop innovator Jackie McLean recorded New Soil, his debut album for Blue Note Records, on this day (May 2) in 1959. Known for his piercing sound and endearingly off-kilter melodies, McLean was a major contributing force to the direction of post-bop through the 1950s and ’60s. Later in life, he became an integral figure in jazz education, establishing the African American Music Department and its Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies program at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. The school has since been renamed the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz. Our Song of the Day is “Hip Strut,” the hard-swinging opening cut from New Soil. With its trenchant opening melody and minimalist harmonic arrangement, the tune distills the blues down to its essence while allowing for plenty of McLean’s trademark creative embellishment.