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Lee Morgan: The Gigolo

Chris May By

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Hard bop's baddest trumpeter, Lee Morgan, may never quite have topped his iconic '63 masterpiece, The Sidewinder, but he came pretty damn close on a couple of occasions. The Gigolo is one of them, and it's been reissued as part of the ongoing Rudy Van Gelder remaster series. The album's menacing, visceral vibe has never sounded more powerful or engaging.

With The Sidewinder ringing cash registers across the US and Europe, there was a temptation for Morgan and Blue Note to repeat the formula and knock out as many close equivalents as they could. Sometimes Morgan succumbed to that temptation, and who would blame him? But with The Gigolo, two years later, the trumpeter scoped significantly wider and built a more open, freer roaming structure into the music.

"Yes I Can, No You Can't" and "The Gigolo" are every bit as mean and moody as "The Sidewinder" itself. "Yes I Can, No You Can't" comes straight out of the same mould, but only after it has been dropped, cracked and generally kicked around a bit: it's even more raucous, more turbulent and more chickenshack than "The Sidewinder" (if you can believe that). Morgan and Wayne Shorter are on fire, their snarling in-your-face solos dancing along the dividing line between hard bop and rhythm & blues. Harold Mabern Jr stays firmly on the R&B side of the border throughout his solo, slipping and sliding in a lascivious, Les McCann-like style.

"The Gigolo" is just as funky, but a mutation Morgan applies to his hit formula makes it sound especially compelling today. Running parallel to the funk is an arrangement that's strongly reminiscent of the John Coltrane Quartet in its groove circa '64: Mabern now sounds more like McCoy Tyner, his insistent, assertive block chords cranking up the tension behind Morgan's firecracker solo, while Billy Higgins at times crashes and surges like Elvin Jones. It's a glorious track (and on the alternate take, Shorter lets loose perhaps his most magnificently mean solo).

"Speedball" and "Trapped" are more conventional hard bop hard swingers, and "You Go To My Head" (the only non-original) a relatively less intense closer. All three are fine tracks, but "Yes I Can, No You Can't" and "The Gigolo" are undeniably the album's peaks.

Astonishingly funky and credible music, even forty years down the line.

Track Listing: Yes I Can, No You Can't; Trapped; Speedball; The Gigolo; You Go To My Head; The Gigolo (alternate take).

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

Title: The Gigolo | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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