Blue Mitchell & Lee Morgan: Blue Note RVGs, Part 1 of 3

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As Blue Note continues to mine its classic catalog, handing over the masters to engineer Rudy Van Gelder, certain key artists have seen a large amount of their oeuvre getting the RVG re-mastering treatment. In this three-part look at the most recent set of reissues from the series, about a dozen of these audio delicacies are covered, grouped together by commonality. Blue Mitchell and Lee Morgan kick things off...

Blue Mitchell
Down With It
Blue Note Records
2005

Although he had recorded several fine sessions for Riverside and played a key role in a superior edition of the Horace Silver Quintet, trumpeter Blue Mitchell really hit his stride via a diverse set of albums as a leader for Blue Note. Down With It comes from 1965 and it serves as a substantial follow-up to the very popular The Thing To Do.

Typical of Blue Notes from that period, "Hi-Heel Sneakers leads the album off on a funky groove, but does so in a manner that makes it far more substantial that your typical commercial hook. Of course, "Samba De Stacy is in a league with "Fungi Mama, with the kind of Latin-tinged groove that always seemed to inspire some of Mitchell's best playing. The real highlight here though is a touching ballad statement from the trumpeter on "Alone, Alone and Alone. Even with its dated cover and title, this is one of Mitchell's best records and should not be missed by fans.

Lee Morgan
Tom Cat
Blue Note Records
2006

A favorite of many collectors and musicians, Lee Morgan's 1964 set Tom Cat has lead somewhat of a checkered past. Cut at a time when Morgan was particularly prolific in the studios, these performances sat in the vaults for years until first appearing on LP in 1981. Subsequent CD issues have not boasted the best sound, so Van Gelder's handiwork now delivers this under appreciated gem in the best light possible. In a three-horn front line with trombonist Curtis Fuller and saxophonist Jack McLean, Morgan stretches out over the course of four exceptional originals that allow blowing space for everyone, with McCoy Tyner's exquisite "Twilight Mist almost stealing the show. Art Blakey keeps everything cooking at full tilt in a rare appearance as a sideman on this sought-after recording.

Lee Morgan
The Gigolo
Blue Note Records
2006

Recorded almost a year after Tom Cat, Morgan would team up with an old friend, saxophonist Wayne Shorter for The Gigolo. The title number, of course, taps the funky groove that Blue Note favored after the success of Morgan's own 1963 hit, "The Sidewinder. Digging deeper though, there's even more of substance here to enjoy. Shorter's "Trapped is a quirky medium tempo swinger that the group sinks its teeth into, and Morgan's own "Speedball became something of a hit and favorite among the trumpeter's many tunes. In a fine update, Morgan really impresses on "You Go To My Head, giving it a lucid bossa treatment that sets up the perfect platform for the trumpeter's best playing of the date.

Tracks and Personnel

Down With It

Tracks: Hi-Heel Sneakers; Perception; Alone, Alone And Alone; March On Selma; One Shirt; Samba De Stacy.

Personnel: Blue Mitchell: trumpet; Junior Cook: tenor sax; Chick Corea: piano; Gene Taylor: bass; Al Foster: drums.

Tom Cat

Tracks: Tom Cat; Exotique; Twice Around; Twilight Mist; Riggarrmortes.

Personnel: Lee Morgan: trumpet; Curtis Fuller: trombone; Jackie McLean: alto sax; McCoy Tyner: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Art Blakey: drums.

The Gigolo

Tracks: Yes I Can, No You Can't; Trapped; Speedball; The Gigolo; You Go To My Head.

Personnel: Lee Morgan: trumpet; Wayne Shorter: tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Billy Higgins: drums.

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