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Saxophonist Jackie McLean Dies at 74

Saxophonist John “Jackie” McLean died at his home in Hartford, Conn., on March 31 after a battle with a long illness. His career spanned over 50 years and 14 albums.

McLean was born in 1931 in New York City. Jackie’s father, John Sr., played guitar in Tiny Bradshaw’s orchestra when Jackie was a child and inspired him to get involved in music. Jackie grew up in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem, the same neighborhood Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Charlie Parker once lived.

McLean quickly became known for his distinctive sound and, at 19, he was asked to perform on the Miles Davis album Dig. In the early 1960s, Jackie had a thriving music career and recovered from a drug addiction but was then dropped by his record label, Blue Note.

After being dropped by Blue Note in 1967 when the company underwent new management, Jackie began teaching at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. At Hartford, Jackie established the African American Music Department, which was later renamed the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz. He and his wife, Dollie, also founded the Hartford Artists’ Collective, which sought to bring the arts as alternative activities to at-risk children.

Jackie is survived by his wife, his daughter, Melonae, and his sons Vernone and Rene.

Originally Published