Vertigo combines quintet dates from ’62 and ’63; the latter documents alto saxophonist Jackie McLean inching towards the groundbreaking music of One Step Beyond, recorded two months later. The earlier tracks with Kenny Dorham, Sonny Clark, Butch Warren and Billy Higgins find McLean at the hard-bop summit, handling the cycle of minor scales that comprise the flagwaving opener, “The Three Minors,” as deftly as the straight-up blues and mid-tempo blowing vehicles that make up the bulk of the date. The latter tracks reunite McLean with Donald Byrd, a frequent late ’50s front-line partner; it is also McLean’s first recording with Tony Williams (Herbie Hancock and Warren round out the band). While the title tune is a relatively jarring line with no chord changes, McLean really doesn’t stray far from the winning Blue Note formula of smartly constructed hard bop and blues on the date, which, given the groundswell stemming from One Step Beyond and Destination…Out! explains why the date was withheld until ’81.
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