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Lee Morgan: Lee Morgan, Volume Three - 1957

Marc Davis By

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Kudos to Lee Morgan for a very fine date. But save a tip of the hat for Benny Golson, both on tenor and as the author of everything on the disc.
In jazz, as in rock, there's a tendency to overlook composers. Performers get all the nods.

Consider Duke Ellington. One of the greatest bandleaders and composers of all time. But Billy Strayhorn? Not as famous—even though he wrote some of Duke's best pieces: "Take the A Train" and "Lush Life" and "Chelsea Bridge."

Or consider Dave Brubeck. Justly renowned as a leader, pianist and experimenter of odd tempos. But Paul Desmond? A pretty nifty saxman, but how many listeners remember that he actually wrote the megahit "Take Five," not Brubeck?

And so we come to Lee Morgan, Volume 3. It's a wonderful record, arguably the best of Morgan's early 1950s discography. (But what's up with the blah title? Couldn't Blue Note come up with anything better?)

Before he led the 1960s soul-jazz revolution, Morgan was a real hard bop disciple, one of the very best trumpeters of his time. A great tone, great swing, and a member of what is arguably the greatest hard bop band ever, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

Yes, enjoy this record. Love the interplay of the three horns: Morgan's trumpet, Gigi Gryce's alto sax and Benny Golson's tenor sax. Dig the five cuts—three bop burners, one blues workout and one of the most memorable jazz ballads ever, "I Remember Clifford," a tribute to the tragically short-lived Clifford Brown.

But wait... Morgan didn't write that ballad. In fact, Morgan wrote none of the five tunes on Volume 3. Benny Golson wrote them all. And man, they are first-class, amazing compositions. So where's the love?

Volume 3 opens with a pair of nearly perfect, nine-minute hard bop showcases. "Hassan's Dream" starts and ends with a memorable theme on Gigi Gryce's flute (!), then flows into terrific, toe-tapping solos from the horns, Wynton Kelly's piano and Paul Chambers' bass. Track 2 is "Domingo," another hard bop number, faster than the first, with a catchy unison theme and some positively cooking solos.

The pace slows with "I Remember Clifford," featuring Morgan's solid trumpet tribute. It quickens again with "Mesabi Chant," a bop burner. And finally, the whole affair ends with a smoky blues number, "Tip-Toeing." (The CD has two versions.)

All in all, this is one pretty terrific album, a real treat for hard bop fans. If you love the Jazz Messengers, you'll love Lee Morgan, Volume 3. And yes, mega kudos to the trumpeter-leader for a very fine date. But save a tip of the hat for Benny Golson, the real star of this show, both on tenor and, more importantly, as the author of everything on the disc. Well done!

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)—and 5 out of 5 for Benny Golson

Availability: Easy to find

Cost: Around $5 used
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