Jackie McLean's Sugar Free Saxophone

A new biography looks at the life and influence of this jazz legend.

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Trevor Parker (Flickr Creative Commons)
Jackie McLean's Sugar Free Saxophone
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Jackie McLean's Sugar Free Saxophone

Jackie McLean had one of the most amazing musical lives of the 20th century. He learned jazz in Harlem from the great pianist Bud Powell...he idolized, then sat in for, Charlie Parker. His first recording gig was with Miles Davis....and he played with all the greats.

The new biography of Jackie McLean is called “Sugar Free Saxophone” - a reference to the astringent alto sax sound that set McLean apart. His life wasn’t all sweet, either. Drugs took their toll on his talent in a way that stuck with him and his story, while other addicts of Jazz’s greatest era had their personas rehabilitated.

Jackie McLean to another path to redemption - as a teacher and communtity leader in Hartford where he co-founded the Artist's Collective with his wife Dollie.

Derek Ansell is the author of Sugar Free Saxaphone: The Life and Music of Jackie McLean.