Easy Go – John McLean
Premonition 66917 90753 2 7
Guitarist John McLean leads a Chicago quintet (with one national ringer,
drummer Adam Nussbaum) through an engaging set of modern mainstream jazz
with this debut CD. McLean’s compositions are memorable, especially the
bluesy Cowboy and the melancholy title track, and the playing
throughout is tight and fiery.
The drawback, though, is that McLean doesn’t appear in the most distinctive
light here. On some cuts there are licks and tones that recall Pat
Metheny’s straight-ahead dates rather specifically, and others evoke John
Scofield’s jazz/funk, while Desperate Measures takes on the ECM sound
of 20 years ago (with even Nussbaum doing an uncanny Jack DeJohnette
impression). Add to that Jim Gailloretto’s Michael Brecker-steeped tenor
sax and Karl Montzka on the all-too-ubiquitous-these-days B3 (it’s a relief
when he switches to piano on two cuts in the back end of the disc) and you
have a disc perhaps too in touch with the current mainstream jazz sounds.
Certainly, though, McLean’s playing is as articulate and his tunes as
well-crafted as his apparent models. Ironically, he makes perhaps the best
case for himself with the three non-originals here. Jaco Pastorius’s
Three Views Of A Secret is a nice choice of a modern standard (and
also manages to avoid the more bombastic elements of the Weather Report
original), and Blue In Green proves that McLean can create effective
melodies over one of Kind Of Blue’s spartan settings. Woody Shaw’s Blues
For Wood is a highlight, packing a great deal of action into 4:37, with
McLean burning a few choruses and Gailloretto and Montzka at their best
trading 12’s, 8’s and 4’s.
In the liner notes, McLean compares jazz recording to photography and hopes
that his CD evokes Walker Evans rather than Annie Liebowitz. It’s Liebowitz
this time out, and certainly many folks would be happy with that, but
perhaps McLean might work to get closer to his stated goal now that his
debut is behind him.