Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rare Grooves are back!

Some of the better finds in the last few months have come courtesy of Blue Note Records who defying all recent precedents have seemed to listen to the punters and reinstated the Rare Groove series. This was the old series that used to reissue longout of print soul jazz from the Blue Note vaults by Donald Byrd, John Patton Eddie Henderson, Lonnie Smith, Lou Donaldson Richard Groove Holmes and not forgetting Grant Green.

This series was a treasure as years ago when I cleared out my LP collection I bitterly resented getting rid of such rare finds as Richard Groove Holmes’ Comin on Home and Lonnie Smith’s Move Your Hand but the cds more than made up for this and sometimes as with Lonnie Smith brought new finds. Even better still was when the series unearthed unissued new finds by Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Duke Pearson, Lonnie Smith and my personal favourites by John Patton.

Sadly the label dried this source up as the issues seemed to focus more on the products of the mid 70’s Blue Note era and less on hard to find soul jazz with obvious huge exclusions such as Grant Green’s Shades of Green. Or Reuben Wilson’s On Broadway.

The series was much missed and discussed on sites such as Organissimo but no new appearances came and news of EMI’s take over and rumour of no more Blue Note seemed to nail the coffin shut. Yet this year out came some rare surprises albeit from the mid 70’s but still all the same were welcome and long lost friends for those of us that used to have the LP.

First up came Lou Donaldson’s Cosmos with the oft sampled killer track Caterpillar which I kind of missed on LP…. used to be a hard to find LP at the best of times, the rest of the LP was not the best of his work in my opinion but I have moved on and interests grown as well.

Much nicer to see was the issue of Reuben Wilson’s Set Us Free which featured not only Mr Big Stuff but Tom Thumb and We’re in Love. I had such a beat up old copy on LP that I had to trade it in and get another …slightly less beat up copy for what seemed a huge amount at the time….finally despite the odd track on a Japanese Blue sampler I got to listen to a hiss, warp and crackle free version. Magic

Blue Note also stuck out the other Eddie Henderson Blue Note: Heritage to partner Sunburst which had been issued earlier on this series. I had both LPs and was lucky enough to get the CDs when they had come out in Japan (Heritage) and the US (Sunburst). Both a really good lps with killer cuts on them. More so Heritage which I enjoy most.

Fans of the Three Sounds and Gene Harris were pleasantly surprised to see not one but two LPs: Elegant Soul and Soul Symphony. Elegant Soul is an example of a record that has grown on me. One of the first LPs I sold as I never liked it, I reluctantly gave it another go, only to have it repeating through the house at full volume and lovin’ it.

Soul Symphony I had never tracked down and written off as probably avoidable but again this was a real find and very very welcome. I have the other Gene Harris from this era and it never fails to impress. One note is that I would love to see Vibrations put out from the earlier period as I have all the other earlier stuff on Japanese cds but this never appeared and I have to make do with ( very gratefully received matey J ) with an LP burn. The same also goes with The Three Sounds /Gene Harris Blue Note 4378 with the great Your l

ove is too much (also not to be confused with Gene Harris of the Three Sounds Blue Note 4423!) Perhaps more on Gene Harris on Blue Note in a later article.

A strange appearance was Howlin for Judy which mixed part of 2 Jeremy Steig LPs Legwork and Wayfaring Stranger onto one LP based on the name of his better known track. I do like his materi

al but in very small doses.

The last of the set was Fancy Dancer from Bobbi Humphrey which again refilled a hole left in my collection when I cleared out the LPs.

So a groovy collection of rarities, rediscoveries and new finds for me in this batch. Thank you Blue Note….more please in the future of the same if possible.

Here is a list of some/most of the other collection of Rare Groove series from Blue Note (stolen it has to said from the Allaboutjazz forums). I have all of them bar the Gary Bartz

Blue Note Rare Grooves so far...

Blue Mitchell-Down With It
Bobbi Humphrey-Satin Doll
Bobby Hutcherson-San Francisco
Brother Jack Mcduff-Down Home Style
Donald Byrd-Caricatures
Donald Byrd-Electric Byrd
Donald Byrd-Fancy Free
Donald Byrd-Kofi
Donald Byrd-Places And Spaces
Donald Byrd-Street Lady
Duke Pearson-I Don't Care Who Knows It
Duke Pearson-Sweet Honey Bee
Duke Pearson-The Right Touch
Eddie Henderson-Sunburst
Gary Bartz-Music Is My Sanctuary
Gene Harris And The Three Sounds-Live At The "It" Club
Grant Green-Alive
Grant Green-Carryin' On
Grant Green-Green Is Beautiful
Jack Mcduff-Moon Rappin'
Jimmy Mcgriff-Electric Funk
Jimmy Mcgriff-The Worm
John Patton-Accent On The Blues
John Patton-Boogaloo
John Patton-Got A Good Thing Goin' On
John Patton-Let 'Em Roll
John Patton-Memphis To New York Spirit
John Patton-Understanding
Lonnie Smith-Drives
Lonnie Smith-Live At The Club Mozambique
Lonnie Smith-Move Your Hand
Lou Donaldson-Everything I Play Is Funky
Lou Donaldson-Good Gracious
Lou Donaldson-Mr.Shing-A-Ling
Lou Donaldson-Pretty Things
Lou Donaldson-The Scorpion - Live At The Cadillac Club
Reuben Wilson-Blue Mode
Reuben Wilson-Love Bug
Richard Groove Holmes-Comin' On Home
Ronnie Foster-Two Headed Freap
Stanley Turrentine-Common Touch
Stanley Turrentine-Easy Walker
Various Artists-Blue Note Rare Grooves

Try and find them as soon as you can as they have a tendency to run out

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lee Morgan: Charisma

Found a little spare time last night and was watching a DVD of the Jazz Messengers live in 61 in Japan. Cracking stuff with Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter giving some wonderful performances alongside Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt with Art Blakey proud to be showing off what was obviously a very on form performance by all.

It got me thinking about Lee Morgan and which of his records I prefer him on …leader or sideman. I still do not know. I absolutely love Search for New Land and The Rajah as well as the Sidewinder. I have his Vee Jay material thanks to the excellent Mosaic box set. However his sides either with Art Blakey or Lonnie Smith or even with Jackie McLean Hank Mobley often for me can outshine his own sessions. Enough of that however as that can change from session to session and for me from day to day. Having loved his playing on Art Blakey’s A Night in Tunisia LP on Blue Note I was enthralled to see him play this as well on the DVD.

After a while after the film had finished I had the CDs out and instead of playing usual suspects like those above I was listening to Charisma which was from 1966, a period often overlooked by Lee Morgan fans. Both Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley are present on the session and first thing I was aware of was just how good the session was and secondly what that hell had I been missing as this was a stunning session and I had not heard it for years. I used to have the LP and was pleased when it finally got reissued. I picked up the Japanese copy a while back and was quickly having nostalgia attacks flicking through the old cover which the Japanese people at Toshiba reproduce in a mini form.

The stand out track for me was Hey Chico, a Morgan original but equally backed up by the reworking of the Duke Pearson Sweet Honey Bee into a much tighter version. A lesson for me then to replay some of that other years production by Morgan which includes Delightfulee, The Rajah as well as Joe Henderson’s Mode for Joe and Hank Mobley’s A Slice of the Top.

It is worth remembering that the output he produced after that stuck in the vaults until Blue Note released The Sixth Sense and then Caramba in 1967 and 1968. LPs that came out in later years such as Taru, Sonic Boom and The Procrastinator and Standards (and The Rajah). All of these have merits and some are very strong. It was not really until he did his marathon Lighthouse session in July 1970 that Blue Note would stick out another Lee Morgan LP so 1966 was a very productive year for him.

So give it a try, check it out. Get hold of Charisma if you can as soon as you can and do not regard it as an also ran. Remember that when you hear it you have with Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Jackie McLean. Also if you get a chance get hold of the DVD…this was classic Jazz Messengers

Lee Morgan Sextet- Charisma Blue Note 84312

Lee Morgan (tp) Jackie McLean (as) Hank Mobley (ts) Cedar Walton (p) Paul Chambers (b) Billy Higgins (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 29, 1966

The Double Up
Somethin' Cute
Sweet Honey Bee
The Murphy Man
Hey Chico
Rainy Night

Other Lee Morgan albums can be found here