Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Wayne Shorter Night Dreamer (Blue Note 1964)

After all these years, the dark-hued adventures of Wayne Shorter on Blue Note have lost nothing of their mysterious charm.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Personnel

Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Lee Morgan (trumpet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on April 29, 1964 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4173 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Night Dreamer
Oriental Folk Song
Virgo
Side B:
Black Nile
Charchoal Blues
Armageddon


Dutch bassist and jazz scholar Hans Mantel once asked Wayne Shorter if he was conscious of creating stone-cold classic albums on Blue Note in the sixties. The tenor and soprano saxophonist’s answer was: ‘What you young cats must realize is, is that we made our records to pay our rent!’

Gold coins from the Byzantine period fade into insignificance compared with the run of Blue Note platters by Wayne Shorter. The tenor and soprano saxophonist, best known by the general public for his role in the Second Great Quintet of Miles Davis and fusion group Weather Report, still going strong today as ‘the greatest living jazz composer’, started off his stretch on Blue Note as a leader with Night Dreamer in 1964. It preceded the perennial favorites and classic albums Juju and Speak No Evil.

Significantly, Shorter’s debuting run of albums on VeeJay in the late fifties and early sixties consisted almost solely of original compositions. As part of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers from 1959-64, Shorter also contributed a slew of fresh, exciting tunes. Furthermore, the Newark, New Jersey-born saxophonist showed his prowess as an original tenor man. As the years went by in the acclaimed and propulsive Blakey outfit, Shorter’s solo’s grew more explorative and explosive. His roaring tale during the rousing modal Shorter composition Free For All is plain crazy. A raid of hand granates kicked back by Blakey in equally tempestuous fashion. Shorter carried over that vibe to Night Dreamer, drawing on the energy of another legendary drummer, Elvin Jones. He stretches his limits song-wise, presenting a set of haunting compositions that are unusually structured but nevertheless flow effortlessly like the meandering side branches of the Euphrates or Tigris.

Where to begin? Any song writer would’ve been happy to deliver the moody melodies of Oriental Folk Song and Virgo. However, the key pieces are Night Dreamer, Black Nile and Armageddon. The whole package – structure, mood, energy, interaction – is perfectly balanced, like an essential performance of a Mozart symphony, with the remarkable difference, the ultimate feat that distinguished jazz from any other music form, that the core of Night Dreamer is spontaneous improvisation.

The album features trumpeter Lee Morgan, Shorter’s frontline partner of The Jazz Messengers, bassist Reggie Workman and the powerhouse duo that was part of the epic John Coltrane Quartet, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. Masterclass of depth and hard swing guaranteed. The pushing and pulling of the beat and wide open spaces of Elvin Jones and the extravagant and tasteful piano excursions of McCoy Tyner cannot fail to be a stimulus to original reed and brass players like Shorter and Morgan. Shorter is a dark prince lurking in the shadows, occasionally darting out of the corner, growling ominously, reciting ancient poetry, the stanzas streaming out of his mouth like wine from a bottle: enigma. Morgan is the florid touch, hard bop royalty, weaving in and out of modal spheres fluently, shooting multiple straight arrows, cocky and convincing: brilliant sleaze. He’s the uplifting opposite of Shorter, who is a demon driving away demons.

Shorter’s sound may not be as characteristic as the tone of great contemporaries or past masters but his compositions never cease to amaze. The nocturnal Night Dreamer hinges on the subtle balance of relative chordal simplicity and depth of feeling and the suave and surprising storytelling by Shorter. The relentless drive is one of many striking aspects of the modal cooker Black Nile. The long, beautiful lines of Armageddon contrast with the booming in-your-face rhythm, the furious rolls and switch of polyrhythm to explosive shuffle groove by Elvin Jones. Expressiveness is the focus of a composition with a minimum of subtly moving chords. Shorter and Morgan rise to the occasion.

The mood nocturnal, with a sense of foreboding and inner turmoil that’s crystallized in a curious state of serenity, Night Dreamer is akin to Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles and Andrew Hill’s Judgement. The avant-leaning catalogue of Blue Note, that daring mid-sixties series of albums from Shorter, Hancock, Hill, McLean and Hutcherson that require repeated listening. Label boss Alfred Lion gave his roster of adventurous talents free reign, very insightful from the legendary independent record executive. To boot, Lion even paid for rehearsal time. And so, in a way, for the rent of the Shorter family’s apartment somewhere deep in the bowels of The Big Apple.

Lee Morgan - The Cooker

Lee Morgan The Cooker (Blue Note 1957)

Just twenty-years of age, Lee Morgan came into his own as a leader on his 1957 album The Cooker.

Lee Morgan - The Cooker

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Bobby Timmons (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on September 29, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1578 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Night In Tunesia
Heavy Dipper
Side B:
Just One Of Those Things
Lover Man
New-Ma


To be sure, the young lion had already arrived as one of the hottest cats on the scene. Two weeks prior to the September 29 session of The Cooker, Morgan played on John Coltrane’s Blue Train session on September 15. Nice work if you can get it. That summer, Morgan had played his last gigs with the Dizzy Gillespie band, which he had been part of since the spring of 1956, appearing on Dizzy In Greece, Birks’ Works and Dizzy Gillespie At Newport. Around that time, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson recommended the Philadelphians Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jimmy Merritt to Art Blakey, whose career could use a boost. The rest is history. Morgan played with The Jazz Messengers from 1958 to ’61 and 1964 to ’65, contributing to landmark albums as Moanin’ and Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World. The Cooker already was Morgan’s sixth album as a leader, his fifth for Blue Note, preceded by City Lights and followed by Candy. On the preceding albums many of the tunes were written by expert tunesmith Benny Golson. The Cooker presents the first Morgan compositions on wax: Heavy Dipper, a long flowing melody which shows the influence of Golson, a very swinging tune. And New-Ma, a mid-tempo blues with a twist, a tune that begs to be played by Ray Charles, a feat that naturally values the song as highly recommended.

Make this one of those albums to put on if you, like Art Blakey so many years hence, need a boost. Leave that Red Bull be, sugar kills, jazz feeds. Morgan and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams absolutely deliver food for the soul, the pairing of Morgan’s buoyant, hip and urgent style with Adams’s husky, dynamic baritone playing is a meeting of high and low registers in creamy, relaxed themes that’s very satisfying. Then there’s Philly Joe Jones, crips, dirty, probing. A fast take of Just One Of Those Things has Philly Joe nudging Morgan with propulsive ride cymbalism, sparse snare rolls and feathered bass, subsequently stoking up the fire and seducing Morgan to turn in blistering hot runs. Such a pleasant stay ensembles have in front of Philly Joe Jones’s kit. Like gliding above the Alps on the wings of a hawk.

Timmons’s crafty blues tale during the ballad Lover Man makes tasteful use of space and silence. Silence, it must be noted, is of equal importance in jazz than the notes. Paul Chambers sounds delighted, embellishing the loping tempo of the ballad’s middle section with fat, exquisite phrases. Pepper Adams bops hard, evoking Charlie Parker in Just One Of Those Things. Lee Morgan is thrilling throughout and killer bee during Night In Tunesia, the album’s highlight. Stimulated by the sparkling cross-rhythmic groove of Jones and Chambers, which only occasionally gives in to the release of a 4/4 section, Morgan’s entrance cracks nuts, whereupon Morgan joyfully excurses into a elongated section of double time. He ends with a honky-tonky coda that’s beautiful for its simplicity.

Morgan the ultimate cooker on trumpet? Convince me of the contrary. Regardless of some low points in his life due to his reckless drug abuse, he would keep burnin’ until that fateful day in 1972, when his common-law wife Helen Morgan fatally wounded the trumpeter by a gunshot at Slugs’ Saloon in New York City.

Jack Wilson - Easterly Winds

Jack Wilson Easterly Winds (Blue Note 1967)

In the epic menu of classic Blue Note albums, Jack Wilson’s Easterly Winds is easily overlooked. It’s an all-round gem including the frontline of trumpeter Lee Morgan, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and trombonist Garnett Brown.

Jack Wilson - Easterly Winds

Personnel

Jack Wilson (piano), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Garnett Brown (trombone), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on September 22, 1967 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST 84270 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Do It
On Children
A Time For Love
Side B:
Easterly Winds
Nirvanna
Frank’s Tune


Perhaps the times were such as to be overlooked, 1967 being the year John Coltrane died, exactly a day after Wilson’s session, jazz temporarily in a state of paralysis. The superb but straightforward hard bop album was in the ring with the avant-garde outing, a darling of many critics, with an edge as, well… new. Everybody was waiting for Miles Davis to fabricate a fresh piece of inventive jazz cake. But why not simultaneously enjoy ‘old’ and ‘new’? Easy for me to say, fifty years after the fact. Thanks to Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records boss and remastering executive of the Blue Note catalogue, modern jazzy mankind has been giving the opportunity to enjoy remastered albums for many years now, with Cuscuna providing, while the ageless prima donna Blue Note hardly needed plastic surgery, a healthy shot of botox nevertheless.

Jack Wilson, born in Chicago in 1936, enjoyed a long stint with Dinah Washington from 1957 till ’62. Moving around quite a bit, from Chicago to Atlantic City and Los Angeles to New York City, Wilson played with Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson and Gerald Wilson, featured on six of the latter’s Pacific Jazz albums. Charmingly ambidextrous, Wilson recorded, among others, his avant-leaning debut album Ramblin’ Featuring Roy Ayers (Atlantic, 1963, total winner!), The Jazz Organs (Vault, 1964, organ porn! Hammond B3 threesome with Henry Cain and Genghis Kyle! Wilson played organ as early as 1955 in Atlantic City, around the time Jimmy Smith kicked up a storm) and Easterly Winds, hard bop Blue Note magic for the ages.

Always the crafty sound sculptures and well-chosen variety of repertoire at the legendary record company. The big frontline, Morgan, McLean and the added thickness of Garnett Brown’s trombone. Wilson knows how to let it flow smoothly, as during the lovely melody of Frank’s Tune, styled in ensemble precisely and soulfully. McLean plays as if he’s eligible for parole, a touch of bitterness and acid still in his sound, which is nonetheless marked mostly by sardonism, relief, gladness to finally wave the warden goodbye. His lines are fluent, and air’s in between them also. Garnett Brown is not only an asset during the ensembles, but a terribly swift and funky soloist. Lee Morgan, one of Alfred Lion’s dream candidates, in possession of abundant versatility, funkiness and a hip and modern approach to make any Blue Note session a success, injects tart tenderness into the date’s mood piece, the haunting Nirvanna. He also travels along Funky Broadway during the album’s opening tune, Do It, a boogaloo groove set up by Billy Higgins. Yes, Billy Higgins, the one who provided an identical, tacky beat to Lee Morgan’s hit The Sidewinder from 1964. Three years after the fact, Do It is just as grittily swinging as that tune, deserving equal praise.

The title track is the album’s uptempo winner, another gem added to the long list of hard bop jewelry in the Blue Note vaults. Wilson, a man who just as easily conjures up the understated drama of Nirvanna through a series of arpeggios, tremolos and bold chord clusters, during Easterly Winds displays legato pureness and kilometers of fecund lines, somehow finding a way out of the stormy labyrinth. It always remains very special to hear the coupling of gifted musicians with the amazing production standards of the Blue Note label.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‘S Make It (Limelight 1964)

After his cutting edge group of the early sixties including Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter disbanded, Art Blakey returned to a more old-timey approach with the Limelight LP ’S Make It.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), John Hicks (piano), Victor Sproles (bass)

Recorded

on November 15 & 16, 1964 in Los Angeles

Released

as Limelight 86001 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Faith
’S Make It
Waltz For Ruth
One For Gamal
Side B:
Little Hughie
Olympia
Lament For Stacey


The end of the year 1964: the preceding half decade of Blakey’s career had resulted in a series of now legendary albums on Blue Note and Riverside with one of his classic line-ups consisting of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and either Jimmy Merritt or Reggie Workman on bass: Mosaic, Ugetsu, Free For All. At the time, Blakey also moved around quite a bit, recording for Impulse, Colpix and (four albums for) Limelight in the mid-sixties.

A bit of jazz genealogy: ’S Make It features Blakey alumni Lee Morgan (1958-61) and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who is the only surviving member of the preceding line-up (1961-64). Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, consiglieri of the eccentric pianist and band leader Sun Ra, had been assisted by Blakey on the unforgettable Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowin’ In From Chicago in 1957. Bassist Victor Sproles was a former bandmate of Gilmore in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Finally, there’s pianist John Hicks, the least known of the bunch. Shaped by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, infested with blues and the American Songbook, the 23-year old Hicks developed into a versatile player during his stint with Blakey in the mid-sixties. In his lifetime, Hicks played with Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, among many others. Too easily overlooked, he lead many bands as a leader and was a fixture on the American and New York scene until his passing in 2006. Hicks contributed to two other Blakey albums on Limelight, Soul Finger and Hold On, I’m Coming. You still with me? A lot of crosscurrents in the jazz family. Undercurrents too. The currency of the dollar was about the only current not too prevalent among the Beethovens and Mozarts of classic American jazz. Even if he would’ve decided to be that generous, Art Blakey hardly could’ve put up the dough to let the rearview mirror fixed of one of Barbara Streisand’s Mercedes Benz automobiles.

’S Make It is slang for ‘let’s go’. Suitable title. Symbolic for the art of Blakey : Let’s just go, bopping hard with a heavy beat. ’S Make It is a Lee Morgan tune, one of three tunes that the reluctant Sidewinder (the trumpeter allegedly wasn’t too happy with his boogaloo hit The Sidewinder of July, 1964, as it threatened to cloud his more artistically viable, advanced direction, which came to fruition in his album Search For The New Land) provided for the session. The horns play a nifty, brassy blues line, while John Hicks puts in a hefty figure on the lower keys. Blakey pushes his men forward with this trademark bombs, rolls and cymbal signals, igniting hot bits by Morgan. Fuller is fluent, more calm and collected. The other Morgan tunes, One For Gamal and Lament For Stacey, are equally bluesy, straightforward cookers. Fine fair from the still only 26-year old, handsome Morgan, three years earlier introduced by the dryly comic Blakey in Tokyo’s Sanyei Hall as ‘the world critic award winner of the Downbeat Magazine, of the New Yorker Magazine, of the Jet Magazine, of the Look Magazine and of the Ladies Home Journal Magazine…’ O yeah, and not to mention, of the Flophouse Magazine.

With slight variations, the album follows these soulful procedures. The rousing Faith, driven by a solid Blakey shuffle, has an especially charming Dixie edge. John Gilmore’s smoky tenor contrasts nicely with Morgan’s sprightly trumpet in blues-based cuts like One For Hughie. A bit more sophisticated, the ballads of John Hicks and Lee Morgan, Olympia and Lament For Stacey respectively, focus on Morgan’s melancholic phrases and Hicks’ delicate runs. The John Hicks tune Waltz For Ruth harks back to the Wayne Shorter days, adding a modal section to the elongated, pretty melody. Blakey underscores the tune with the kind of hi-voltage drumming familiar from albums as Ugetsu.

’S Make It’ is a very enjoyable, undervalued Blakey album, with a line up that didn’t make it to the next record. A pity.

Andrew Hill - Grass Roots

Andrew Hill Grass Roots (Blue Note 1968)

One of the most accessible albums of pianist Andrew Hill’s imposing stretch of Blue Note releases in the sixties, 1968’s Grass Roots is still a thoroughly challenging affair.

Andrew Hill - Grass Roots

Personnel

Andrew Hill (piano), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass), Freddie Waits (drums)

Recorded

on August 5, 1968 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST 84303 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
Grass Roots
Venture Inward
Mira
Side B:
Soul Special
Bayou Red


Hill, who had one foot in the avantgarde, one foot in the mainstream, never received the kind of recognition like pianists Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner but was highly acclaimed by serious jazz fans and critics. Though more under the radar, the pianist, who passed away in 2007, tread a similar path of the creative elder statesman who’s admired for legendary recordings on Blue Note in the sixties. Mention Black Fire, Point Of Departure or Judgment to any self-respecting, avant-leaning jazz fan and goosebumps will start to pop up on his/her arms like ants on a smashed lollypop on the sidewalk. 24-carat classics in which rhythm, harmony and melody are altered extremely in order to find fresh ways of expression. Hill doesn’t buy the method of discarding them for the sake of freedom, which turns out to be illusionary anyway, but favors a bottom-up approach: change through evolution. In this regard, the title of Grass Roots is telling.

Cerebral, introspective. Call his style what you like, at any rate, Hill’s notes cannot but have a strong pull on the listener. If notes are words, Hill is describing a descent into the mysterious abyss of the mind. A labyrinth of ephemeral sensations, a place Hill searches and researches like a child a playground. The playground isn’t necessarily dark and damp, the search is intense but strangely uplifting. For Hill, life is sweet, sour, a ‘dance macabre’. And his yearning to explore it is the essence of his art.

A ‘pianistic’ intellectual? Certainly not. Hill’s longing is also firmly focused on rhythm, the root of his trade – jazz. Hill’s beats are clever, complex constructions that nonetheless often remain surprisingly close to the toe-tappin’ sounds commonly flowing out of a Harlem BBQ joint. His penchant for playing against the rhythm is evident in Bayou Red, a modal piece with majestic solo statements by the bandleader. Hill’s other modal tune, Venture Inward (yes, do!) boasts sparse, dense chords that are accompanied by meandering lines which are spiced with, sometimes sliced by, clusters of seemingly jangling but remarkably precise notes. How nice to be ‘out’, ‘in’, ‘in’, ‘out’, ending up with the best of two worlds, like the kid daughter with a dollar who said ‘no’ to daddy when he asked her if mom’d given her the pocket money.

The concise, hip line of Grass Roots has a circular nature, like a viper who keeps biting his tail. The compositions has a sly groove and finds Hill in elegant form. Soul Special’s a boogaloo, Hill-style, the measures slightly differing from the standard blocks of eight. The bunch that gathered at Van Gelder Studio on August 5, 1968 proves sensitive to Hill’s needs. It’s a major league crew. Ron Carter and drummer Freddie Waits, a versatile drummer who, for instance, played on both Ray Bryant’s 1966’s soul jazz gem These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and Richard Davis’ deconstruction of Bird and Monk, the 1973’s Muse album Ephistrophy/Now’s The Time, are obviously enjoying the extended chord of Bayou Red’s A-part, hanging on to it like a windsurfer to his sail, subsequently relishing the release with booming, sizzling fills. Carter would continue his collaboration with Hill, playing on the subsequent albums Lift Every Voice and Passing Ships.

Lee Morgan attunes nicely to the repertoire. Generally heated, Morgan alternates his fiery approach with subdued toyings with the beat and measured valve effects, particularly in Soul Special. His bright ensemble playing with Booker Ervin lingers in the mind. Booker Ervin’s lines in Bayou Red make up the musical equivalent of a snake that dances in the basket of a Punjabi snake charmer. Ervin, Mr. Blues Wail, the roaring, advanced player who came into prominence with Charles Mingus in 1959, is relatively subdued, perhaps under the influence of the bandleader’s organic jazz menu. Bon appetit, this dish is the bomb.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Lee Morgan Live At The Lighthouse (Blue Note 1970)

The titles of Lee Morgan’s Live At The Lighthouse, such as Nommo and Neophilia, perfectly match the woolly times. Sounds like books by Madame Blavatsky read by a wicker man under the sole tree in Greenwich Village, while runaway girls in gingham dresses rattle their gypsy earrings and recite luney banjo tunes with feverish enthusiasm… Indeed, Morgan’s notes sometimes are close to hitting a falling star but underneath his ‘pretty far out’ project shimmers the trumpeter’s trademark hard bop blowing.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Harold Mabern (piano), Jimmy Merritt (bass), Mickey Roker (drums)

Recorded

on July 10-12, 1970 at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California

Released

as BST-89906 in 1971

Track listing

Side 1:
Absolutions
Side 2:
The Beehive
Side 3:
Neophilia
Side 4:
Nommo


The prince of hard bop’s more adventurous side occasionally came out of hiding, less than Lee Morgan wished, I guess. Sure, as early as 1963, Morgan was featured on Grachan Monchur III’s avantgarde outing Evolution and the trumpeter’s follow-up of hit album The Sidewinder, 1964’s Search For The New Land never lost anything of its frontline charm. He appeared on Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer, Joe Henderson’s Mode For Joe and Andrew Hill’s Grass Roots and Lift Every Voice. But as far as leadership dates were concerned, Morgan’s label, Blue Note, still favored straightforward jazz releases in the late sixties over envelope-pushing affairs, some of which were released posthumously, such as The Sixth Sense and The Rajah. Then there was Live At The Lighthouse, subconscious-Lee in the limelight at last. By that time, of course, Alfred Lion was taking pictures in Mexico and Blue Note, though Francis Wolff and Duke Pearson shared production responsibilities, was swallowed by United Artists.

Scene of the spectacle: the legendary Lighthouse, hurled into prominence in 1952 by Howard Rumsey but, as Dutch journalist Jeroen de Valk revealed in his 1989 mythbusting biography of Chet Baker, in reality put on the map initially by Baker just before Rumsey came into the picture. A rather unspectacular club that hosted legends like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and many others. Situated close by the beach, where Lee Morgan sat beneath the poles of the pier some time between July 10 and 12, 1970, a time sequence in which the wind blew a hodgepodge of moody and explosive trumpet and sax sounds outwards from the bowels of The Lighthouse over the sweaty, salty Hermosa shore. Lots of seagulls, their obnoxious squawks momentarily stunned.

The stress is on vamp, modality, mood. Music that challenges you to surrender to its spiritual cry and moan. It’s tenorist, bass clarinetist and flutist Bennie Maupin that ‘moans’ most convincingly. No doubt, Lee Morgan blows spirited trumpet and builds crafty stories, but while Morgan focuses on recurring figures and effects like the halve valve trick, Maupin sends us unpredictable weather from his throne above the clouds, alternating deadpan turns, bluesy phrasing and torrents of edgy Coltrane’s sheets of sound preceding the release of dark-hued calm-after-the-storm notes. His feature on bass clarinet on Neophilia, a lullaby-ish, concise and plainly beautiful, slow-moving melody, goes from sweetness to drama, climaxing with violin-like cries. Maupin, nowadays going strong at the age of 76, came into prominence with Horace Silver in ‘68/’69, Lee Morgan in ‘68/’70, Woody Shaw in ’70/’72, played on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and was a long-time part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band in the late sixties and early seventies. His 1974 album on ECM, The Jewel In The Lotus, is a treasured album for avant-leaning jazz fans. Cutting edge cat.

A great band with writers Morgan could benefit from. Harold Mabern’s The Beehive’s a short, quirky theme, like a fragment from a Charlie Parker solo, alternating between the fragment and Mickey Roker’s ferocious drums breaks. Jimmy Merritt’s strangely beguiling Nommo switches between a soulful line and elegiac intermezzo, building on a twisted boogaloo vibe and Roker and Merrit’s hefty cross-rhythm. The a capella sections of Morgan and Maupin before returning to the theme are thoroughly enjoyable. Another Jimmy Merritt tune, Absolutions, showcases the group’s dynamic prowess, squeezing every bit out of the modal vamp, pushing and pulling at time’s rear end until it, like time seems to have been doing eternally, bends. Morgan is terrific, translating the military-rolls of a snare drum to the trumpet, and charmingly experimenting with the various shades of softness and loudness.

Strictly vinyl on Flophouse’s smoky Monte Christo #2 premisses. But just this once, an exception, since the Compact Dick not only offers more avant-leaning, uptempo jazz that for the most part would easily have stood the test of LP release, but also brings a version of The Sidewinder, the hit that Morgan almost hated more than Trump fans hate reason. Table three was requesting a tune, perhaps. The group’s turning in a solid take.

Trane, Lee & Helen

Lee and Helen Morgan

It seems that nowadays every three months or so a jazz movie is released. What’s happening? Must be something in the Kentucky Bourbon. First Whiplash, then Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, Robert Budreau’s Chet Baker movie Born To Be Blue, and documentaries on both John Coltrane and Lee Morgan. For decades we had to make do with Bertrand Tavernier’s ‘Round Midnight (starring Dexter Gordon, who’s largely responsible for making it the best jazz movie ever) and Clint Eastwood’s Bird, now jazz pictures roll off the assembly line like chocolate letters during Santa Claus season.

Lots of talking heads crowd the Coltrane biopic, John Scheinfeld’s Chasing Trane, including the former saxophone colossus of the White House, Bill “Slightly Drawling Behind The Beat” Clinton:

Chasing Trane

A lot of unreleased studio photography and footage seems to appear in Kasper Collin’s I Called Him Morgan, tickling the senses of hard bop aficionados around the globe:

I Called Him Morgan

To this day, the story of how Lee Morgan took a slug at Slugs’ from his common-law wife Helen in 1972 has remained a dramatic, horrible and hyper-real slice of classic jazz history. Let’s go back to a revealing, detailed account from drummer Billy Hart in his interview with Ethan Iverson of 2006. (The interview itself is one of many truly fascinating, long Iverson interviews on his Do The Math blog) Scroll to about three/fourths of the page:

Billy Hart about the death of Lee Morgan

Below are listed three albums from the Flophouse vault: Coltrane and Morgan’s sole cooperation on wax, Blue Train (Blue Note 1577, 1957); Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder (Blue Note/United Artists 84157, 1972-75, France); Coltrane Time (Solid State 7013, 1970; previously issued on United Artists in 1963 and as Cecil Taylor’s Hard Driving Jazz (United Artists, 1959)