Lee Morgan: Standards

C. Michael Bailey By

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Prometheus Unbound. Lee Morgan Standards is a compact disc of previously unreleased material. This is brand new Lee Morgan, and not only that, it is new Lee Morgan in a medium-sized ensemble (septet) setting. These pieces were recorded in January 1967, well after his seminal Hard Bop Blue Note recordings The Sidewinder (1963), Search for the New Land (1964) and Cornbread (1965). Morgan was to record his late Hard Bop/Avant-garde masterpiece, The Procrastinator, in July of 1967. These recordings fall directly after The Lee Morgan Quintet, The Rajah (11/4/66) and Hank Mobley, Third Season (2/24/67). The end of the 60s found Morgan in a modal bent, which he continued until being fatally shot by a girlfriend.

DelightfuLee Whoa! What a swinging collection! From the very first notes of "This Is the Life," it is obvious that this is not just another blowing session; it sounds like a well-groomed big band session without the big band. Standards boasts a septet lineup that includes James Spaulding on flute and alto, Wayne Shorter on tenor, Pepper Adams on baritone, Ron Carter on Bass, and Mickey Roker on drums. All that is missing is Curtis Fuller for a perfect octet. The keen arrangements on this disc were no accident. The liner notes betray that Blue Note A&R man Duke Pearson wanted to present the public a "kinder, gentler" Lee Morgan, and part of his vehicle was this Spaulding/Shorter/Adams horn section.

The liner notes also explain why this music was never released. Blue Note's reasoning was that they would typically record a given artist a great deal during the artist's most creative period. In the case of Morgan, he was averaging recording three LPs a year while Blue Note was releasing one per year. If this is true, then one's mouth must water at the prospect of a warehouse full of unreleased treasures. This would be a collection of music that would rival the recent Berlin Classics releases from Iron Curtain countries after the end of the Cold War.

ThankfulLee This is not the Lee Morgan of the Jazz Messengers, Cornbread, or Mode for Joe. This Lee Morgan is relaxed and melodic, even on the upbeat numbers like "This is the Life" and "Blue Gardenia." He is downright plaintive on "God Bless the Child." All of the soloists are superb ? but how could they not be? This is a well-arranged and well-executed dream date. Speaking of arrangements: "God Bless the Child" sounds as fresh, new, and iconoclastically revisionist as Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" as interpreted by John Faddis' Carnegie Hall Jazz Band on 1996's The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (BN36728). The songs selected are pretty good, also. With the exception of Leonard Bernstein's "Someday" from West Side Story, which I think is a little weak, all of the songs and performances are very good. Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" sounds like a 60s period piece, but it is so cool (Pepper Adams? baritone especially), I can forgive everything that might be wrong with this disc, and there is very little.

GratefulLee This is a most enjoyable recording. It is not often that the listening public gets to hear such a relaxed Lee Morgan. The remaining support is very fine and capable also. But Lee Morgan sounds full developed. The music on this disc is like a mint julep. It sounds softly edged and lyrically sweet, but knowing that it is Lee Morgan blowing on the other end of the trumpet provides a bourbon kicker to the music. And it catches up with you before you know it.

Riding On A Blue Note Blue Note Records has released four other discs in their Standards series. They are The Three Sounds (BN23281), Sonny Clark (BN21283), Grant Green (BN21284), and Jimmy Smith (BN21282). All of these recordings contain either previously unreleased or limited released material. All 50s and 60s Blue Note material should be welcomed and accepted as the history it is.

Track Listing: This Is The Life, God Bless The Child, Blue Gardenia, A Lot Of Livin' To Do, Somewhere, If I Were A Carpenter, Blue Gardenia (Alternate Take).

Personnel: Lee Morgan (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto saxophone, flute); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone); Herbie Hancock (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Mickey Roker (drums).

Title: Standards | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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