Tag Archives: Lee Morgan

Candy: Lee Morgan

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Imagine. You are 19 years old and already a highly respected musician playing live and on recordings with the brightest and the best. You have already led six sessions which will be issued in your name and you are about to record your seventh. You are a trumpet player of prodigious ability and your name is Lee Morgan.

In November 1957 and February 1958 Morgan visited Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio to record Candy. This was the sole quartet date in his lengthy discography and the only time he was recorded without another horn in the line up.

This was Morgan’s final Blue Note recording as a leader (of a first series of six, with one outing ‘Introducing Lee Morgan’ on Savoy) before a period away from the label during which he served as a member of the Jazz Messengers before returning to Philadelphia to struggle with addiction.

The tunes chosen for the session were a range of popular crowd pleasers from the charts, Hollywood and then-current musicals. They would have been well-known at the time and would probably have tempted the wallet of the casual record store browser but nearly sixty years later most can only be regarded as lesser known entries in the list of standard tunes. That said, it was interesting to check the origins of most of the songs that make up this set.

A jaunty version of Candy opens the set. The style of trumpet playing here is somewhat reminiscent of Clifford Brown, from whom Morgan took a number of lessons while Brown was living in Philadelphia. Originally a hit in the 40’s, Big Maybelle had also belted this one out in 1956. This track has an audible flaw which has been attributed to a squeaky hi-hat pedal. I initially thought it was signalling the beginnings of a problem with my system but the well-documented fault lies on the original master recording. Many choose to try to ignore it, as I did when this review was originally published, thinking that it would be analysed to death by more extensively visited writers. On reflection, it is a comment that needs to be made about a sub-standard take that should have been scrapped and re-recorded.

Since I Fell For You is a slow and melancholy blues ballad and I have included a link below. It was later recorded by Stanley Turrentine and the Three Sounds on Blue Hour and that is the Blue Note version that I prefer. There is also a cover by Nina Simone, while a Van Morrison version from the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival is also worth seeking out, partly for his impassioned response to a heckler when the song is introduced.

To watch, click on or touch the arrow.

C.T.A. ups the tempo and takes us into bebop territory.

All The Way is a Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen number which was a current hit at the time of the recording, having been popularised by Frank Sinatra before being covered by a spectrum of artists extending from Billie Holliday via James Brown to Bob Dylan and beyond. In 1957 it received an Accademy Award for: ‘Best Original Song’, which meant that its inclusion on this album would have caught the eye and helped to boost sales. Whilst it is a pleasant enough ballad, for me, it will never rank in the pantheon of Blue Note’s finest covers.

Who Do You Love. I Hope is an Irving Berlin show tune from Annie Get Your Gun. I’m not fond of the rather trite chorus, but once Lee Morgan gets going into his solo it becomes well-worth a listen.

Personality featured in Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s ‘Road to Utopia’, a perennial TV film during my childhood and one of my favourites. Although it was filmed in colour, we had a black and white telly in those days and I can’t imagine it any other way. Dorothy Lamour performs the song in the movie

All At Once You Love Her is a bonus track on the CD release. It is the Rodgers and Hammerstein number from the musical ‘Pipe Dream’, which later became a hit for Perry Como.

The LP cover represents a sole Blue Note outing for Emerick Bronson. I assume that label stalwart, Francis Wolff was responsible for the overall image, which places a portrait of Lee Morgan, shot by Bronson, amongst an arrangement of sweet jars. It is not one of the better Blue Note sleeves and Bronson’s talents were deployed to greater effect through his career as a photographer with Vogue and Cosmopolitan. His pictures have featured in themed exhibitions in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and since he died at a fair old age in the bijoux Long Island hamlet of Sag Harbor, which was also a home from home for John Steinbeck I assume his career was a relatively lucrative one.

Candy is a snapshot of a confident young leader flexing his talents with just a rhythm section to support him and, in the additional sleeve notes which were added to the RVG series CD release, Bob Blumenthal rightly commends Lee Morgan for daring to be bold. Whilst it is interesting to hear him in this context, it seems a shame that the choice of material here draws so heavily on a mainstream popular songbook and it is an album that I listen to from time to time rather than a staple on my playlist.

Candy is currently available as 45 and 33rpm high-quality vinyl pressings from MusicMatters Jazz, but, as the above review suggests, this is not a title that I’ll be rushing to purchase.

The band etc:- Lee Morgan (Trumpet); Sonny Clark (piano); Doug Watkins (bass); Art Taylor (drums). Recorded: 18 November 1957 and 2 February 1958. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover Image of Lee Morgan: Francis Wolff. Cover photo: Emerick Bronson. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Originally issued as Blue Note 1590.

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The downwithit playlist: Twenty great tracks for you to listen to

The downwithit playlist is a list of 20 YouTube track selections that I have used to give readers a taste of the albums that I have looked at here on downwithit. They are highlighted and form part of a full post.

They are gathered together here for your further pleasure. Click on the burnt orange title to link directly to YouTube and listen.

If you would like to read my full post for the album, each one is available to read here on downwithit

The following six tracks should open on a tablet or mobile device and a computer:-

Tommy Chase: Grove Merchant: Killer Joe
Abdullah Ibrahim: Mannenberg
Pharoah Sanders: Africa: You’ve Got To Have Freedom
The Crusaders: Hollywood: Hollywood
Don Wilkerson: Preach Brother: Camp Meetin’
John Jenkins: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell: Sharon

The following fourteen tracks should open on a computer, but will not open on a tablet or mobile device:-

Blue Mitchell: Down With It. Hi-Heel Sneakers
John Coltrane: Blue Train: Blue Train
Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver: Camouflage
Horace Parlan: Movin’ n Groovin’: On Green Dolphin Street
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe: Mode For Joe
Johnny Griffin: The Big Soul Band: Wade In The Water
Freddie Roach: Brown Sugar: Brown Sugar
Fred Jackson: Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’: Southern Exposure
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder: The Sidewinder
Grover Washington: All The King’s Horses: Lean On Me
Kenny Dorham: Una Mas: Una Mas
Jimmy Smith: Home Cookin’: See See Rider
Freddie Roach: The Soul Book: One Track Mind
Kenny Burrell: Out Of This World: Montono Blues

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Blue Train: John Coltrane

It is the first day of 2014 and time to tackle one of the big beasts of the jazz jungle. Blue Train was John Coltrane’s second session as a leader and his sole Blue Note set in that role. It is nothing less than one of the great jazz albums that everybody should know about and own, if possible.

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Recorded on 15 September 1957, Coltrane assembled a crack squad sextet at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack, New Jersey studio to lay down 5 tunes on tape.

However this was a session that nearly didn’t happen, partly due to the less than timely intervention of a cat. Richard Cook in his excellent book ‘Blue Note Records’ recounts how John Coltrane, keen to improve his understanding of soprano sax, dropped by early evening at the Blue Note Records office. He wanted to borrow some Sidney Bechet records to learn what he could from them. Although between record deals at the time, he was regarded as a hot property on the scene. Francis Wolff, who took care of contractual arrangements at Blue Note had already gone home but his partner, Al Lion sensed that he could possibly make an offer to JC and he proposed a small advance to make one record, which was accepted.

Just as matters were about to be formalised, the Blue Note office cat (name unknown here) jumped out of the window and onto the street. Lion rushed to the window where he saw a woman trying to entice the puss into a cab. He dashed out and recovered the feisty feline but on returning found that John Coltrane had gone. The putative agreement was verbal and shortly afterwards JC signed a deal with Prestige Records.

However, Coltrane’s legendary integrity was to the fore and having given his word to record a session, he duly delivered…and what a package Blue Train turned out to be.

The title track runs for close to 11 minutes and is a wonderful strolling blues. Some listeners consider it to be eerie and sombre but I just don’t hear that. I just hear a piece of musical near perfection with solo following solo seamlessly. It is reproduced here from YouTube courtesy of everythingchangesmoi

To listen to Blue Train, touch or click on the arrow in the centre of the picture and enjoy.

The band really perform. While John Coltrane is on great form, trombonist Curtis Fuller makes a massive contribution to the overall ambiance. Meanwhile, Lee Morgan, on trumpet and although only 18 years old had already released 5 Blue Note albums as leader. Moments Notice and Locomotion are lively hard bop numbers which drive forward and each offer a great platform for the soloists. throughout the set the rhythm section of ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, Kenny Drew and Paul Chambers are impeccable.

I’m Old Fashioned is the sole standard played on the session. It is a Mercer/Kern song which was used to provide a vehicle for a song and dance routing featuring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in a now little-known 1942 film ‘You Were Never Lovelier’. The closer, Lazy Bird is a light, bright hard bopper. Job done.

The band etc:- John Coltrane (tenor sax); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Kenny Drew (piano); Paul Chambers (bass);’Philly’ Joe Jones (drums). Recorded 15 September 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover photo: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 1577.

As the photo shows, my main copy is nothing special. It is the CD and not even the RVG remaster or one with extra alternate versions of Blue Train and Lazy Bird (which are quite listenable as alternate takes go). However, it is much loved and if you haven’t yet got it, I urge you to purchase and learn to love it too. Update: In February 2015 I bought the splendid MusicMatters 33 1/3 rpm mono vinyl reissue for those times when I want to listen to this great album at its best.

Happy New Year

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Mode For Joe: Joe Henderson

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Why should I bother with this:-  The track- Mode for Joe is wonderful.  Interesting line-up with vibes and trombone.  Amazing cover photography.  Branford Marsalis liked the album so much that he learned all of Joe Henderson’s solos by heart.  Challenging and varied; probably not recommended as an early addition to a new jazz collection- but it repays extended listening.

The band etc:- Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Bobby Hutcherson (vibes); Cedar Walton (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Joe Chambers(drums).  Recorded 27 January 1966.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather.  Cover photos: Francis Wolff.  Cover Design: Reid Miles.  Issued as Blue Note 4227.

The Music:-  Mode for Joe was recorded at the start of 1966 at a time of great change and dynamism, socially, politically and in jazz.  It represents Joe Henderson’s fifth and final Blue Note session as a leader in the 60’s, although he was to return with his excellent The State of The Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard in 1985.  Written at a time when contemporaries were pushing deeply into free jazz, this one strains at the edges within clearly defined tunes.

It features an adventurous, non-standard lineup that extends to seven musicians, with vibes and trombone adding to the mix.   Some of the compositions will scare off the dinner jazz set as Henderson and Morgan veer towards free and expressive playing over complex rhythms.  Eight years earlier, Curtis Fuller had made a memorable contribution to the session which resulted in John Coltrane’s Blue Train and he is on fine form here too.

The opening track A Shade of Jade takes no prisoners with tenor sax and later trumpet delivering solos that sound like an urgent street corner dialogue of exaggerated points of view that the listener had better hear, or else!

The wonderful Mode For Joe is altogether more relaxed, a track of great beauty after an introduction to the tenor solo that verges on the sour.  Then we hear the vibes and trombone.  Pure sophistication.  I’ve Gilles Peterson (circa 1995) to thank for introducing me to this track.  Take a listen- what do you think of it?  (YouTube: courtesy of Andrew Jackson).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrTJd8lxH58

Black starts with a dramatic intro before heading off with a lively theme.  I probably would have sequenced this as the opening track for the album as it doesn’t frighten the horses.

Caribbean Fire Dance (YouTube: courtesy of 1blue1) has some great celebratory percussive rhythms driving things forward.  It is samba and more and a dancer could certainly make great use of it- must play it to a mate who is into salsa very soon (that’s you Pete).  Granted is straightforward hard bop while Free Wheelin’ closes the set with some delightful funk-tinged piano from Cedar Walton.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWdOj89hN1k

Leonard Feather provides the sleeve notes which are informative after he leaves behind his dig at Motown which was ruling the airwaves at the time.  He rejects “…the whanging guitars, adolescent lyrics and…massive accumulation of percussion” emanating from Detroit but then goes on to praise jazz alumni from Motor City, including Joe Henderson, Morgan and Curtis Fuller.  If you google Feather you will frequently find the term ‘acerbic’ in the articles you source but, because its nearly the weekend, I’m not going to be too hard on him here.

The cover:-  One of my all-time favorites.  I love the sequence of three photos of Joe Henderson: seemingly in conversation; contemplating and then taking a drag on his cigarette (sadly, Joe Henderson died of heart disease after suffering from emphysema in his final years).  Great portraiture fromFrancis Wolff though.

My copy of this album is on a CD which predates the 2003 digital remaster in the Rudy Van Gelder series, but which contains the alternative version of Black (also on the RVG collection).  CD’s of this great album cost from @£4.50 on Amazon, if you can put up with what the excellent London Jazz Collector calls ‘the evil silver disc’.  I would like a mint / near mint, vintage vinyl 1966 Blue Note first pressing-  but they seem to go for north of £90 at auction.

 

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The Sound of Soul- Phyl Garland

The Sound of Soul was published in 1969.  It was written at a point when Stax and Motown had broken through and were well established in the charts.  Phyl Garland questions how deeply ‘…soul music has penetrated the core of modern America and how did it all come about?’

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The first half of this short and very readable book is concerned with the origins of the soul sound.  Phyl Garland is explicit in stating that she is not presenting a ‘…scholarly treatise in sociology or musicology’.  Rather, she seeks to entertain and inform those who like soul music and who want to know more of where it emerged from and of the ‘… gifted people who create and perform it.’  As a black woman, she states that she is not attempting to achieve ‘Olympian Objectivity’ but that she writes from a black perspective and concentrates on the work of black musicians because she views them as ‘the most vital factor’ in the development of the music.  She is well aware that many white and British groups drew heavily from soul but makes a strong case for concentrating on the originators rather than the partial popularisers.

The second half of the book presents contemporary late 60’s examples of a living and developing music with longer feature pieces on BB King; a fascinating visit to the Stax Studio in Memphis on a working day; an in-depth and illuminating interview with Nina Simone and an appraisal of Aretha Franklin.  Garland then turns to soul in jazz, interviewing Billy Taylor (perhaps best known as the composer of ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ but also as a prolific jazz pianist and educator) before offering an appreciation and requiem for John Coltrane.

Published in Chicago by Regenery, The Sound of Soul is long out of print but you will be able to obtain a copy from AbeBooks or Amazon without breaking the bank.

I first came across Phyl Garland earlier this year when I started to think about this blog.  Having selected Down With It! for the first posting (and blog title) I read the sleeve notes.  I wasn’t expecting much.  Blue Note sleeve notes are a mixed bag.  Leonard Feather’s musings on the back of Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder’ are informative if you are into musicianly technicalities but are bone-dry and out of keeping with the excitement of the album contained within.  So it was without any great expectation that I started to read her clarion call to listen carefully and enjoy but not to over-analyze or seek to confine jazz to an exclusive cerebral gated community.

Further research confirmed that Professor Phyllis Garland was a remarkable and inspirational person.  She was the first woman and the first African American to gain tenure at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  This followed on from a distinguished career as a journalist and writer with Ebony Magazine and as a reporter and editor on The Pittsburgh Courier from 1958 to 1965.  She was also a participant activist in the civil rights movement.  There’s a full obituary at: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/obituaries/obituary-phyllis-garland-journalism-professor-at-columbia-university-458744/  and her enthusiasm for the music was indicated by her annual listening parties, held for her students at her Eighth Avenue apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village where she played music from her massive collection of jazz and other genres.

Phyl Garland also wrote sleeve notes for Let ‘Em Roll by Big John Patton and Jackie McLean’s Right Now which were both released on Blue Note and for Booker T and the MGs 1969 album- The T Set. In addition, I understand that a Phil Garland may have written the notes for a Smokey Robinson set that Freddie Roach may have contributed one of his last recordings on. I must check that one out in due course.

 

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