Writings about Music

Jackie's Jazz

Jackie McLean

Jackie McLean

Jackie McLean opened with "Old Folks" one night at Catalina Bar and Grill in the early nineties. He was in top form, and the effect was mesmeric; a raw passion and power that both startled and even frightened in its intensity, summoning Charlie Parker's spirit.

Curious to know the lyrics, they open with the below. Looking back, Jackie was clearly thinking about Charlie Parker and these lyrics while playing.

Everyone knows him as old folks
Like the seasons he comes and he'll go
Just as free as a bird and as good as his word
That's why everybody loves him so

Willard Robison was the composer of "Old Folks," with lyrics by Dedette Lee Hill. The song was introduced by Larry Clinton and his Orchestra in 1938.

Make no mistake - Jackie McLean developed into a complete original, assimilating the titanic influences of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane within the cauldron of his modus operandi more effectively than any other musician. I shared this thought with Jack DeJohnette and he concurred.

What an inspiration Jackie McLean was! All those nights I heard the altoist in Manhattan and Hollywood he was pure perfection and even godlike.

Listen here to Jackie McLean touch the face of God with Woody Shaw, Jack DeJohnette, LaMont Johnson and Scott Holt. I've been singing along with this composition ("Sweet Love of Mine by Shaw") and improvisation since I first heard it in college, and the performance remains immortally charmed. Even so, it only hints at how sublimely otherworldly it was to hear Jackie McLean in person.

Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan. Enough ingeniously piloted force to power us away from fossil fuels forever with Jack DeJohnette, Larry Willis and Larry Ridley performing Jack's composition titled "Climax."

- Michael Robinson, April 2016, Los Angeles


© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist. His 162 albums include 149 albums for meruvina and 13 albums of piano improvisations. He has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.