Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don and Jackie Mac

As many of you have probably heard, both Don Alias and Jackie MacLean passed away this week. Darcy has posted the details, and a ton of good links. EDIT: worth its own link is an interview with Don, mostly about how he went from Nina Simone's band to "Bitches Brew". Real Audio needed.

I have to be honest- I never really checked Jackie Mac out that much, for a number of reasons I won't go into, one sheer laziness. Now, I will go back, particularly to the mid 60s stuff with Grant Montcur et al. That said, my high school girlfriend, now a classical trumpeter in New York, went to Hartt, where Jackie taught, and always had nothing but the warmest things to say about him, his students, and the work he did there. He left a long line of very solid players in his wake, including bassist Nat Reeves and saxophonist Jimmy Greene. He was a great gift to the city of Hartford, a place that could use a few more such people. He will be sorely missed.

Don is a terribly underappreciated player. The breadth, and depth, of his work as a sideman, from Miles to Jaco to Joni to Steely Dan to Jack to James Taylor (James Taylor?!) is truly amazing. (JazzCorner's thread includes a partial discography, which is mindblowing) When I heard the news, I thought, he is in many ways the first of the second wave of great Latin percussion players to "cross over" into jazz and pop musics. (Machito and Dizzy's compadres in the 50's being the first wave, Airto and others followed.) I never met him, but was fortunate enough to be working with Michael Cain at Eastman when he was touring with Don in Jack DeJohnette's band. Mike would tell us stories he got from Don- stories of Miles, of Joni (his wife in the 70's), of other musicians- that were beautiful, side-splitting, and so illuminating. I got a picture of a warm, jovial, beautiful human, the kind of person the world needs many more of right now. I didn't know him, and I already miss him. My favorite Don is with Joni- "Dry Cleaner..." from Mingus and "Dreamland" from Shadows and Light, but that's really the tip of the iceberg.

Gentlemen, thank you and onward.

file under: music, RIP

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