Like the other newly-reissued Blakey set, Roots and Herbs, the music contained on The Witch Doctor was recorded in 1961 and came out on LP much after the fact. It too features the great line-up with Morgan, Shorter, and Timmons, but this time the writing is more a group effort, with two cuts apiece from Morgan and Shorter, plus one from Timmons and tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan. And while the material may not quite be as strong as that of other Blakey sets from the period, there’s still much that recommends this one without trepidation.
Hints of former glories and great things to come are to be heard in Morgan’s "Afrique." With the use of a Latin beat and various hand-held percussions one is reminded of the exploratory take the Messengers did on "A Night in Tunisia," while the opening vamp would later be fleshed out by Morgan for his "Calling Miss Khadija." Shorter’s two contributions are characteristically impressive, "Those Who Sit and Wait" being a minor masterpiece. Oh, and don’t forget Timmons’ "A Little Busy," which ranks among the greatest of his soul-jazz cuts.
On a technical note, 24-bit remastering has yielded an even more refined sound balance than what was achieved even a few short years ago on a now deleted Mosaic boxed set. That this material easily sits along side such better known sets as The Freedom Rider and A Night in Tunisia is a testament to the integrity and magic that this special edition of the Jazz Messengers possessed. Or as they often say, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to!
Track Listing: The Witch Doctor, Afrique, Those Who Sit and Wait, A Little Busy, Joelle, Lost and Found, The Witch Doctor (alt. take) (40:34)
Personnel: Lee Morgan- trumpet, Wayne Shorter- tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons- piano, Jymie Merritt- bass, Art Blakey- drums