A quick inspection of the Lee Morgan discography unearths an obscure album sandwiched between 1966's The Rajah and 1967's The Procrastinator. The album, Sonic Boom, was recorded in 1967 yet remained silent in the Blue Note vaults for twelve years, resurfacing only twice, as an LP in 1979 and eleven years later as a CD. Both times, exposure to the public was brief, making Sonic Boom nearly irrelevant in the trumpeter's overall anthology. Yet the music here is nothing short of vintage Morgan, as evidenced on the latest reissue, a limited edition 24-bit remastered set.
Serving his usual heady brew of jazz, blues and funk, the emphasis here is strictly hard-boppin' fun. Accompanying the leader are a stimulating crew that includes Cedar Walton on piano, David "Fathead" Newman on tenor, Ron Carter on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. Tracks like "Sneaky Pete," "The Mercenary," and "Fathead" provide plenty of straight ahead muscle from the whole band, with Newman's gruff tenor work, in particular, pairing remarkably well with Morgan's horn. The true highlights, though, are in the searing title track and in the exceptionally sweet and sincere interpretation of the ballad "I'll Never Be The Same." While Morgan may best be celebrated for his charged, upbeat solos, his delicate touch on ballads merits equal praise, and, indeed, confirms that Morgan was something else.
This latest reissue of Sonic Boom includes an additional seven tracks taken from a 1969 session, originally released on 1978's double LP version of The Procrastinator. Employing an entirely different set of musicians, the cast includes Julian Priester on trombone, George Coleman on tenor sax, Harold Mabern on piano, Walter Booker on bass, and Mickey Roker on drums. Though thematically similar, the bonus tracks are more progressive and funkier than the album's first half, with exceptional compositions by Coleman on "Free Flow," Priester on "The Stroker," and Mabern on the jive dance of "Uncle Rough." In comparing the two halves of the album, it is interesting to hear the changes upon the hard-bop idiom over the late 1960s. By 1969, funk and its inherent bass and drumbeats are more prevalent than before. Integrated into jazz, as heard here, the results are joyous.
In the final analysis, Sonic Boom is an underrated gem. As such, fans of the trumpeter and of hard bop are advised to check out the album while it's still here.
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This review first appeared in All About Jazz: Los Angeles .
Personnel: Sneaky Pete/ The Mercenary/ Sonic Boom/
Fathead/ I'll Never Be the Same/ Mumbo Jumbo/ Free Flow/
Stormy Weather/ Mr. Johnson/ The Stroker/ Uncle Rough/
Claw-Til-Da/ Untitled Boogaloo