BST 84312 “Charisma” Lee Morgan Sextet: 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
Stellar front line, Morgan Mobley Mclean all having fun, stellar rhythm section Higgins and Chambers, with Cedar Walton gluein’ it all together with an infectious piano groove in best post-Sidewinder mode. The solos are a delight. The tune is Duke Pearson’s, (for a little “which twin has the Toni” moment his original is streamed at the end this post). It’s the sort of Bop-Pop that demands girls in shift dresses and bee-hive hair dancing the hand jive, watusi and the frug. Perfect Sixties Dance Party, but oh those Mobley and Mclean solos – icing on the cake.
The recording finds itself standing on the other side of the 1966 chasm that separates Blue Note Records from Liberty Records and its United Artists future owners. The gatefold by lines tell the story.
The Blue Note Records legacy dismantled by corporate and economic forces, before your very eyes. “Produced by Francis Wolff”, Alfred Lion’s close friend and Blue Note’s photographer. Van Gelder still in the sound engineering seat (“VAN GELDER” in the run out) , no Reid Miles design, but “Ann Meisel”. Investor-owned Transamerica Corporation property, west coast LA United Artists division Liberty/UA release (Copyright date 1969 says the cover art) sporting Division of Liberty labels. The Gatefold back cover address is “New York 10019” – Liberty NY transition address. The liner notes are written not by respected jazz critics like Feather or Hentoff, but by Herbert Wong, a San Francisco radio-station DJ. The once-mighty Blue Note Catalogue Number (in this case 4312) is relegated to the small print.
Division of Liberty (1st) Pressing:Gatefold Cover: Morgan’s photo insert pictures a new Lee Morgan. New black spectacles (“intellectual”) and ethnic hat, Rahasan Roland Kirk style (“intellectual”), and chunky knitted sweater (“intellectual”). A jazz bohemian image make-over, marketing to new audiences outside the narrow New York jazz aficionado circuit.
Not that there is anything wrong with commercialisation. Musicians need to eat, and competing with emerging mass pop-culture and those massive revenue streams meant company survival. The days of Mobley BN 1568 and pressings counted in hundreds, an aberration of quality over quantity, were well and truly over.
Duke Pearson led his own record, BLP 4252, “Sweet Honey Bee” which must be one of the very first 1966 Liberty-only original pressings. The title track kicks of with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson and James Spaulding in the front line, but solo-ing strictly off-limits:
It’s cute, but another reason why 1956-66 remains “the gold age of modern jazz”. From here on, with a few detours, it was mostly down hill all the way.