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