Essence All Stars

Essence All Stars: Jackie's Blues Bag

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Of all of the multi-artist tribute sets released by Hip Bop to date, this is the most exciting one thus far. Altoist Jackie McLean is one of the living giants of jazz, so a group of mostly younger saxophonists, along with a top-notch rhythm section (led by the underrated pianist LaMont Johnson, who was in McLean's group during 1964-68), are heard performing six McLean originals (mostly blues), plus Johnson's brief trio ballad "Dr. Mac Jackie." Branford Marsalis is in top form during his two appearances (which include a version of "Bluesnik" that has New Orleans parade rhythms and an outing on soprano during "Dr. Jackle"), tenor great Joe Lovano's rendition of "Blues Inn" is a fiery duet with drummer Idris Muhammad, and altoist Abraham Burton comes closest to emulating McLean's distinctive sound on the lyrical "A Ballad for Doll"; also featured are altoists Justin Robinson, Donald Harrison and Vincent Herring and tenors Craig Handy and Javon Jackson on one song apiece. In reality, every selection is successful, not only paying homage to Jackie McLean but making one feel optimistic about the future of jazz. A particularly memorable project.

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