Music » Critic's Choice

Makanda Ken McIntyre




When he arrived on the scene, Ken McIntyre had the mark of Eric Dolphy upon him: he was a multiple reed player with alto sax as his main ax, a melodist with a puckered tone and an inclination toward disjointed lines, a vanguardist with an innate connection to bop. That Dolphy played on McIntyre's 1960 debut, Looking Ahead (Prestige/New Jazz), no doubt helped establish the connection, but McIntyre was only three years younger than his counterpart, and for anyone listening closely it was clear he was his own man--and he still is. McIntyre's battery includes not only alto, bass clarinet, and flute, like Dolphy's, but also double reeds, a relative rarity in jazz. His playing, though buoyant and at times giddy, is highly concentrated, rarely woolly or raging; his oboe and bassoon work can sometimes lend the music a chamber feel, as on Cecil Taylor's 1966 record Unit Structures (Blue Note), but he's capable of making the difficult winds sing and swing, too. As early as 1961, McIntyre began teaching, making him one of the first "new thing" musicians to enter academia. His engagement with professorial life kept his professional profile low. But his rather brief discography as a leader includes some lesser-known gems, such as 1962's The Year of the Iron Sheep (Douglas), with Jaki Byard on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Ben Riley on drums, and 'Way, 'Way Out (United Artists), a fascinating session from a year later with very unusual string arrangements. These two records, plus other valuable, previously unreleased material from the same period, have been compiled on The Complete United Artists Sessions (Blue Note), offering an excellent overview of his early playing and particularly his personal approach to composition. McIntyre managed to make strong records for Steeplechase throughout the 80s and was heard widely as a member of Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. Fortunately for fans, he's now retired from teaching and rededicated to performing. In this uncommon Chicago appearance, he'll front a trio with Harrison Bankhead on bass and Tim Mulvenna on drums. Saturday, 10 PM, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; 312-409-0099 or 312-559-1212. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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