Jackie McLean's Jacknife sessions have had a peculiar and somewhat disjointed history in his discography. Initially issued in 1975 on a vinyl two-fer as part of the Blue Note reissue series, it included separate, previously unreleased sessions from 1965 and 1966, the former with trumpeters Lee Morgan and Charles Tolliver, the latter in a quartet with only McLean as the leading horn. This 1965 group has many worthwhile and often challenging moments for the then-33-year-old alto saxophonist.
Of the five tracks here, "On the Nile," at over 12-and-a-half minutes, should be a favorite, as its modern, mainstream modalism weaves Larry Willis' deep piano chords, Tolliver's evocative trumpet, and McLean's rich harmonizing. Tolliver also wrote the title track, a sour-toned bopper on the cutting edge, considering this mid-'60s time frame. McLean penned the tuneful, enjoyable "Blue Fable" on the steady swing side, briefly dishing out calypso beats. Morgan's feature is DeJohnette's "Climax" in a chopped-up piano riff with the drummer, as a bop line from the horns takes up the urgent, kinetic charge. The only track with both trumpeters, "Soft Blue," is easy as the title suggests, harmonic and warm, with solid solos showing the stark contrast between the approach of the two brassmen and Willis' ruminating piano.