Jackie McLean & Michael Carvin – Down In the Bottom

I got a phone call yesterday asking me about my record dealer friend, Old Man Mike who had passed away last year. The party said that someone claiming to be his daughter contacted them in regards to buying records out of their dead father’s collection, and that they needed money. I knew right away it was Mike’s collection. The few of us who respected the guy wanted to try and help by selling them at their value to people who would appreciate them, not just turn a quick buck at garage sales or ebay like the predators waiting for him to die when he was sick. The vultures have already picked this man’s life of collecting rare and obscure records clean for a mere fraction of what they were really worth. I heard that someone came to just buy his comics and ended up getting a huge cache of his records for next to nothing. Mike would be rolling in his grave if he knew people were disrespecting this music like that. He was a fair man, who always had what you were looking for. The type of guy you would just buy the same record again because he always went out of his way to give you what you wanted. I miss my friend, and am disgusted at the way his life’s work that he was proud of has been diminished through greed. I bought this record from Mike, among many others, and am excited to share it with you. 14KT got me thinking about Jazz records when he did the Big Ups interview the other day, so I figured I’d pull some Jackie McLean and Michael Carvin doing “Down In the Bottom” from 1974 on SteepleChase Records.

John Lenwood McLean aka Jackie McClean was born into a musical family in 1931 in New York City. His dad was a guitar player in an orchestra, but when Jackie was 9, his dad passed away. Mentored by his record store owning Godfather, as well as some of his neighbors, Jackie got into playing the saxophone. These weren’t any ordinary neighbors either. Try Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell. If that wasn’t enough, (and you know it wasn’t), he played with guys like Sonny Rollins and Kenny Drew in high school. Not too shabby, but this was the late 40’s in NYC, Jazz capital of the world. Under the age of 20, he hooked up with Miles Davis, Art Blakey, and Charles Mingus among others to record. With a firm roots in Blues music, McLean played Hard Bop as good as anyone in the genre. Recording for Prestige, a huge stint over at Blue Note (with great album covers no less, and honored recently by the Japanese dept. store Uni Qlo on a tee), and finally at SteepleChase, McLean’s career was stellar. As a leader and sideman he played with Lee Morgan, Granchon Moncur III (Evolution is the shit), Gene Ammons, Sonny Clarke, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd and more. In his early career, he too, like Miles Davis was a heroin addict, which may or may not have shaped the direction he went in throughout it. He left Prestige to go to Blue Note, which had more up and coming talent, offered more control, and of course payed better. His records with Blue Note, especially, Let Freedom Ring, were key, because he started to lean towards avant garde/ free Jazz a bit, saddling up with some new and borrowing from some old (Coltrane and Coleman) players to do it. The “new breed” as he called it, transitioning from Hard Bop to something new, “the search is on” to forge his new sound. Unfortunately in the late 60’s his recording contract was terminated by Blue Note due to new management. What a shame. He continued to tour and eventually took a teaching gig at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. Jackie McLean was the only Jazz musician in the United States that founded a University department while almost simultaneously forming an organization based in the community (Hartford’s Artist Collective, an organization that preserved the African diaspora movement). They have both been around for over three decades with the help of his wife and sons. Jackie McLean died in 2006.

Michael Carvin was born in Houston, Texas in 1944. The son of a musician, he played professionally at a young age and won Texas State Championships in the meantime. So good, he was a staff drummer at Motown for two years, and was a member of Freddie Hubbard’s band starting in 1972. Recording over 250 albums, besides playing with McLean, he’s played and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Pharoah Sanders, Bobby Hutcherson, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Smith, and McCoy Tyner among many, many others. You don’t play and record that much without playing with the greats. Respected worldwide as one of the best drum teachers in the world, he founded the Michael Carvin School of Drumming, and is also a respected producer as well.

Here we find the duo recording on Denmark’s SteepleChase records. McLean strolls along on “Down In the Bottom” while Carvin keeps his composure, stays in the pocket, and then McLean takes a little bit of a turn, throws in that signature sound and exploration of other sounds he is known for. Carvin still stays straight ahead, a quick fill here and there, and then McLean let’s out some real wails man as if to say, I’m here Michael, take yours and go, then returns to finish the song. Carvin says: “Jackie McLean has me reaching for totality. Jackie has me to think of everything I learned, instead of playing a small portion of this..I don’t try to play hip. I only play what I feel with what I hear." A great duo, this side is good, but the rest of the record is definitely an exploration into free Jazz stuff. McLean remarked about the sound of this duo: "It can't be Be-Bop all of it". Very true Jack Mac, and thank you Old Man Mike for turning me on to this side. Hope You enjoy it. Keep Diggin!

Listen to or Download Jackie McLean & Michael Carvin – Down In the Bottom from the SteepleChase LP Antiquity

RIP Old Man Mike

Photo Courtesy of Devil Dick

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