John Lenwood (Jackie) McLean is an American jazz alto saxophonist and educator, born in 1932 in New York City. His father, John Sr., who died in 1939, played guitar in Tiny Bradshaw's orchestra. His mother was a music teacher. After his father's death, his musical education was continued by his mother, his godfather, his stepfather, who owned a record store, and by several noted teachers. He also received informal tutoring from Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Charlie Parker. During high school his friends included Sonny Rollins and Kenny Drew.
He recorded with Miles Davis when he was 19 years old. As a young man he also recorded with Gene Ammons and Charles Mingus and, as a member of the Jazz Messengers, with Art Blakey. His early recordings as leader were in the hard bop genre. He later became an exponent of modal jazz. Throughout his career he has been known for his distinctive tone (often described with such adjectives as withering, piercing, or searing) and a strong foundation in blues .
In 1968 McLean began teaching at the Hartt College of Music of the University of Hartford. He later set up the university's African American Music Department and its Jazz Studies degree program.
His son René is a jazz saxophonist and flautist as well as a jazz educator.