Monday, May 9, 2011

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico- Claude McLin Tenorman

Here we is a very unsung Chi town tenor player-

I used to live in Chicago at the old Maryland Hotel on Rush St
in 70's when I was playing with Jack McDuff as well as Don Patterson.

There was a sax player who lived in the hotel named Buster..he
was a local guy and knew ALL the spots to jam..hear people and like that.
Sonny Stitt told me first about Claude as I thought his name was
a stage name for Wardell Grey or something. I heard these records
thru Buster..It was a style like a harder Lester Young bag. Kinda like
Wardell Grey...But more edgy and loud.I'm a sucker for
those post-Prez tenor guys..The swing and the hard groove kills me.

SO - also Von Freeman had made me tapes of Claude but since then
they have bit the dust.I love Von to. ( also Frank Lowe in NyC gave me some
info to- )

This is a great player..Check the Charlie Parker record he is on.His
feel and personal tenor statement is a breath of fresh air today.

Claude McLin ... Tenor sax Legend and Unsung Master.

Claude McLin was a tenor saxophonist of the purest Lestorian persuasion.
He was born in 1926, place unknown. He served in the Army from 1944 to
1946, and seems to have moved to Chicago after his discharge. From 1946
through 1951 he led a combo in Chicago bars and nightclubs.

Claude McLin was an established presence in Chicago by the end of 46.

From January to June 47, Claude McLin led the house band at the Pershing
Hotel ballroom. On Sunday January 19, "McKie's Matinee Dances" opened with
Claude McLin & His Orchestra. On February 1, a promo for the Feb. 2 dance
showed McLin in a photo, surrounded by teenaged autograph
seekers. On February 9, "McKie's Booster Ramble" now included the bands
of "McLin, Freeman, Cosby" .

In March , there was a scheduled battle between Claude McLin and Johnny
Griffin. On May 9, Claude had the night off, but as the "McKie Booster
Favorite," he was promised to return on May 16, battling " Gene
Ammons (Billy Eckstine Favorite)." On May 24, the Chicago Defender ran a photo
of him with the caption "Claude McLin's swingsational sax will be featured at
the battle of the saxes being staged at the Pershing Ballroom by McKie
Fitzhugh..." At this point, Fitzhugh was running a tournament "to determine the
most popular sax player in Chicago."

Whether Claude won the finals on June 15, we don't know, but Fitzhugh may have wrapped up his Sunday dances for a while.

Still, with the extensive publicity Fitzhugh had generated, McLin had no
trouble finding work elsewhere. On June 21, 1947, "Claude McLin and his
2 Kings and a Queen" were appearing at Ciro's Lounge . This was located at
820 East 39th Street, not far from the Morocco Hotel and the Macomba Lounge. On
August 14, 1947, "the music of Claude McLin starring Gene Ammons" was
advertised for the Jazz at the Pershing series on August 17: "Both McLin and
Ammons are popular with
patrons of the hall and there is every indication that the hall will be
jammed." Ciro's Lounge ad appeared, as
did another on October 4 On October 25, Claude McLin and his 2
Kings and a Queen were still at Ciro's. On November 2, Claude "McLinn"
was again at the Pershing; the timing of the dances seemed
calculated to draw a High School crowd.

Claude McLin became a frequent visitor at the
Macomba Lounge where Tom Archia led the house band. Tom needed a
replacement when he went out on the road with Hot Lips Page
(November-December 1947), but the Macomba could not have relied on him
during the week, as he was still at Ciro's.
. Most likely, he filled Monday nights and during the late hours sessions.
Unfortunately, none of Claude's tenor "battles" with Tom Archia were
recorded ( neither were his contests with Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Von
Freeman, and other local tenor stars )

On January 3, 1948, the New Savoy Ballroom welcomed Charlie "Yardbird"
Parker and His Orchestra along with Claude McLin and His Combo. McLin's
band settled in for a residency on January 11, and was paired with Duke
Ellington and his Orchestra on January 25. But the New Savoy did not keep its
doors open long.On March 6, Claude was back at Ciro's .

After Tom Archia's last session for the Aristocrat label (early October
1948), Leonard Chess and Evelyn Aron seem to have turned their attention
to Claude McLin. There are no advertisements for McLin from June 48
through early June 49, and he may have been resident at the Macomba
during part of this period . From 49 to 51, he and Gene Ammons were
Aristocrat and then Chess's top tenor saxophonists. Both had
hits in 1950 (Jug with "My Foolish Heart"; Claude with "Mona Lisa"). McLin,
however, quickly faded in 51 (his last session for the label was left in the
can) while Ammons' records continued to sell, as they still do today.

Claude McLin's first recording as a leader was on a rare Aristocrat
release that has been ignored since 49.
- Final note ; one of the best and most available sources to hear this unsung
giant of the tenor sax is on Charlie Parker's .." One Night in Chicago"..on
Savoy Records.This recording is a must.Bird is playing top form and the tenor
playing of Claude is stunning !
( SJL1132)
Without question Claudes tenor on " There's A Small Hotel " is on of the
many highlights on this live Parker recording.


You don't hear a tenor player like this every day.The search is well worth your time.

See ya next week- Tim Price


  1. Thought I left a comment on this a few weeks ago, but great to see you championing guys like this. I remember first hearing the solo with Bird on "There's A Small Hotel" on the Complete Savoy Live Performances and wondering who it was.

    Without the liner notes I also first assumed it was Wardell Gray, but your description of McLin as edgier and louder really hits it. To me he really has a certain soulful grittiness that links many of the Chicago tenor players like Von Freeman, Ammons, John Gilmore, Johnny Griffin, and Clifford Jordan.

  2. And while we're talking about post-Prez tenor guys, (albeit of a slightly different nature,)what about Brew Moore and Allan Eager?