Lee Morgan - Candy

Lee Morgan Candy (Blue Note 1958)

What strikes the listener of Lee Morgan’s Candy is the incredible production of producer Rudy van Gelder. Both group and leader sound big, fresh and in-your-face. And what especially triggers the heart and mind of jazz lovers is the amazing, facile agility and feeling for the core of a composition that the then twenty-year old trumpeter Lee Morgan demonstrates. Moreover, despite his age Morgan showed he was capable of carrying an album as the sole horn player.

Lee Morgan - Candy

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Sonny Clark (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on November 18, 1957 and February 2, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

BLP 1590 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Candy
Since I Fell For You
C.T.A.
Side B:
All The Way
Who Do You Love
Personality


Lee Morgan’s freshman years in the recording studio were very prolific. Candy, recorded at the end of 1957 and the start of 1958, was his seventh album and it only took roughly one year to record those seven albums. This period represented a rapid evolution of Morgan’s style. It’s delightful to hear Morgan incorporate his influences into his bag in such an eloquent way on Candy. 1958 would be busy as well. At the end of that year Morgan had joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. One might safely say that in his years with Blakey (1958-61) Morgan was not only putting the finishing touches to his style, but rapidly evolving into a full-fledged trumpet superstar.

The overall mood of Candy is relatively lighthearted, joyful and swinging. Morgan didn’t contribute any writing for this album; his focal point was to interpret a set of standards. The title track, fired up by some stimulating press rolls by drummer Art Taylor, is a catchy tune in which Morgan shows what a storyteller he already is. The sound of the horn that Van Gelder creates at his studio in Hackensack, New Jersey is ‘spacey’ and simply majestic and makes Morgan’s statements all the more imposing. Give it a listen with headphones on and it’ll be pointed out to you what Van Gelder was capable of. It succeeds to arouse my spirits even after nearly two decades of listening to the recording.

Morgan’s lyrical capabilities are in order and he injects vigorous blowing into two ballads – Since I Fell For You and All The Way. The former comes out so confidently and au naturel, it is by far the best of the two.

For faster tempos one can turn to C.T.A., Jimmy Heath’s bop standard. It was put on the map by Miles Davis on his Blue Note release from 1953, Miles Davis Vol. 2. (that included Jimmy Heath and Art Blakey). Incidentally, Davis claimed to possess the knowledge of what the title was about and said it had as its subject the better parts of a woman’s body. The rest of the decidedly less deadpan universe sticks to Chicago Transit Authority, which ran through Jimmy Heath’s hometown of Philadelphia.

There’s a high quality version of Red Garland featuring John Coltrane, released on Dig It!. Lee Morgan’s cockier-than-cocksure rendition, however, beats them if not by armlength, surely by more than an inch; it contains multiple interesting ideas, fluid phrasing and above all, a sizeable dose of soul. The group is groovin’ high and Sonny Clark puts in a string of coherent, charged remarks.

Morgan’s profusion of ad-lib phrases in Personality make his statements cheaper than they should be. Yet, how aptly chosen a title can be. It puts the finger on the road Lee Morgan was traveling on around the recording period of Candy. The sweet side of this session adds to Morgan’s already extraordinary and virtuoso character.

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Art Taylor A.T.’s Delight (Blue Note 1960)

Just for the fun of it I took a peek in my record collection to find albums drummer Art Taylor played on; a cinch, as Taylor appeared on many quality sessions, mostly for Prestige and Blue Note. I have particularly fond memories of Taylor’s sparse work on John Coltrane’s Trane’s Slo Blues (from Lush Life) and probing, brilliantly produced snare drumming on Dexter Gordon’s hard bop extravaganza Tanya. (from One Flight Up) It shows a drummer that built his distinctive style coming out of the school of Max Roach and Kenny Clarke.

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Personnel

Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Dave Burns (trumpet A1-3, B2, B3), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Carlo ‘Potato’ Valdez (conga A2, A3, B2), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on August 6, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Released

as BST 84047 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Syeeda’s Song Flute
Epistrophy
Move
Side B:
High Seas
Cookoo And Fungi
Blue Interlude


Alot of drummers have a tendency to yield to excessive exercise once their name is up in light. Art Taylor’s endeavor as leader for the Blue Note label is far from egomaniacal. Indeed he took the opportunity to engage in a drum solo with conga player Carlos “Potato” Valdez on Taylor’s composition Cookoo And Fungi; however, in the forefront are bebop and hardbop tunes from colleagues Taylor was well acquainted with, pieces that he supports attentitive and faultlessly. Drummer Denzil Best’s Move (an often played composition, immortalized especially by Bud Powell) is particularly exciting; trumpeter Dave Burns (in speedy, playful Clark Terry-mode), Stanley Turrentine and Wynton Kelly deliver suave solo’s in spite of Move’s breakneck tempo.

Coltrane’s Syeeda’s Song Flute is a proper vehicle for Taylor to not only keep time steadfastedly but inventively fill the spaces between its intriguing and innovative changes. Kenny Dorham’s High Seas and Blue Interlude are fine renditions of typically ‘twisty and turny’ hard bop compositions. Blue Note surely was secured of a drummer to be trusted with the keys to the building.

Gene Ammons Angel Eyes

Gene Ammons Angel Eyes (Prestige 1965)

Tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons was incarcerated on drugs charges from 1958-1960 and 1962-1969. As record companies often did when one of their leading artists was absent, Prestige released a series of albums throughout the sixties to keep the musician in the picture. Angel Eyes, culled from two earlier sessions, is such an album. Arguably because of the circumstances, it lacks a consistent feel and at times sounds run-of-the-mill.

Gene Ammons Angel Eyes

Personnel

Gene Ammons (tenor saxophone), Frank Wess (tenor saxophone, flute A1, A2, B1, B2), Mal Waldron (piano A3, B3), Johnny “Hammond” Smith (organ A1, A2, B1, B2), Wendell Marshall (bass, A3, B3), Doug Watkins (bass A1, A2, B1, B2), Ed Thigpen (drums A3, B3), Art Taylor (drums A1, A2, B1, B2)

Recorded

on June 17, 1960 and September 5, 1962

Released

as PR 7369

Track listing

Side A:
Gettin’ Around
Blue Room
You Go To My Head
Side B:
Angel Eyes
Water Jug
It’s The Talk Of The Town


At these particular sessions from 1960 and 1962, a wild bunch of seven musicians earned their day’s pay. Among them is Frank Wess, whose flute arrangements seem out of place and whose considerable talents have been put to better use in Prestige’s catalogue.

Tenor great Gene Ammons is central to proceedings that almost offer a retrospective to the swing era, a feeling sufficiently enhanced by organ player Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith, whose playing might be modern here and there, but whose open registered organ sound dates back to the days when Jimmy Smith was just a highschool kid.

High point on this album is the ballad artistry of Ammons, who lends his own particular flavor to the style of such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. That slow, lenghty workout on Angel eyes and smoky stuff on the two non-organ cuts from 1962’s session just might make you forget the leaky faucet of fate, if just for a while.