Lee Morgan: Lee-way (1960) Blue Note


Selection: The Lion and the Wolff (tk.17)

No need to guess the dedication, Alfred and Francis,  but it took a lot of takes to get it right, take seventeen. Who’s counting, the boss is paying.


Lee Morgan (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Bobby Timmons (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 28, 1960

An Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers Reunion Party, plus special guest invitation, on loan from Miles Davis, Paul Chambers. It is fairly rare to hear Blakey and Chambers together, and Chambers feels very at home in this quintet.

Art Blakey Jazz Messengers line-ups

Beyond 1964, The Jazz Messengers became a less of a talent incubator. Previous voices had all become established leaders in their own right, and jazz audience attention was drifting in new directions. Art still loved to play, and plenty of musicians needed the work, but the early years are still those I treasure most, 1958-63.


Lee-way is a particularly strong bop album, with masterful contributions from everyone on the day. With only four tracks to the album, each player is given lots of space to stretch out and work through their ideas, and everyone is an equal partner, including Morgan himself.

Timmons’ comping block-chord accents and rocking right hand runs ensure continuous propulsion, while Chambers walks the walk, warming to new company. Blakey is rock solid “in the pocket”, and Mclean’s impassioned alto is held in check by Morgan’s glittering trumpet presence. The chemistry is right and the session glows red hot as a result.

I leave it to one Amazon reviewer to add an essential local context, an insight a Londoner couldn’t offer, but from a New Yorker seems absolutely right:

The “feel” of this superb Lee Morgan album is that of New York City in the fall : gray skies, a brisk, cool breeze off the Atlantic, trench coats and sweaters down Bleeker Street, maybe a quick trip to the Automat for some hot coffee, or a warm pretzel from that guy with the cart in Washington Square. Yes, this music is VERY New York

One of these days I will add why a Tubby Hayes record is FAIRLY Soho, a trip down Gerrard Street, in London’s West End, except I don’t think we romanticise 50’s Soho in quite the same way: cheap, sleazy, seedy. Nowadays it is quite vibrant, diverse, and exciting, not at all the same place.

Vinyl: BN 4034 Mono 47W63i P RVG 43W61cv

Lee Morgan’s earlier titles in the Blue Note 1500 series are immensely collectible and hugely expensive. By the time of Sidewinder he became very well-known and his records sold in large quantities, and do not qualify for the Ebay seller wail “Rare!!!”. Lee-way sits somewhere between the two, and well worth seeking out. The intense feisty Blue Note mono sound is a useful bulwark against  a wash of synthetic modern stereo reissues.

Interestingly, both sides are Rudy’s second shot at mastering, A-1,B-1, a point of detail rarely mentioned, probably because it is of little or no significance.



Collector’s Corner

This was the first original Blue Note of this vintage that has come my way in some time. What attracted me was that, for some reason, it is a Morgan title which I didn’t have any shape or form.

It was something of a risky offering, with a less than encouraging prospectus, but enough to put off the trophy hunters. “Nothing major, but crackles a bit during quieter passages, and there is a 4″ seam split in the cover.” – you know the line –  the fine line between VG and VG+, always a gamble, but likely priced to match. Or so three other bidders thought.

It was certainly no give away, and the condition was correctly described. Fifty years of ground-in dust and dirt, careless storage, cigarette smoke, and finger-print grease left a surface which crackled a fair amount throughout. Summoning the  Moth RCM to the rescue, three sessions on the record cleaning machine, interspersed with play, accomplished a fairly miraculous recovery. Not perfect, but a gamble that for once paid off, sometimes it doesn’t. Whenever anyone complains to me that £500 is too much  to spend on a (fairly basic) vacuum record cleaning machine, I answer that for anyone who buys vintage records, it is absolutely essential, don’t think twice about it.

I recall someone claim that there was no need to clean records, because the needle did the same job, think “snow-plough”. I don’t think that is true for alcohol-soluble contaminants, but on recent experience, the combination of several repeat RCM cleaning sessions and playing the record has made a considerable difference, taken together. It won’t help a record with permanent surface damage, but it will help reduce background crackle due to detritus “welded” into the groove, and improve your total listening experience.





20 thoughts on “Lee Morgan: Lee-way (1960) Blue Note

  1. True beauty. I happen to own an original review copy from the property of WRVR radio station — back in those days NYC’s premier jazz radio station if I am well-informed! It gives it an extra excitement imagining how many people listened to and enjoyed the music on my very copy! I wonder how it was like hearing those BN originals on the radio this fresh..


  2. I know RCMs have gone up significantly in price — I think my Moth VII was GBP300.00 when I bought it twelve or thirteen years ago, and I thought that was an awful lot of money…. But I have cleaned thousands of records, replaced the velvet strips a few times, and that’s it — it still operates flawlessly, there’s no sign of the motor deteriorating and there isn’t really anything else that can go wrong with it. As far as record collecting is concerned, it was probably the best single investment I ever made. I clean everything — absolutely everything: new, old, in between, whatever they look like, they get cleaned. And I have yet to hear a record that the RCM hasn’t made an improvement to. I’m very happy I bought when I did and got into the “nothing goes own the shelves without a clean” discipline…. It’s probably the only discipline I have got….


  3. Don’t have this on LP, only on ESD. Music nowhere as good as “Cornbread” IMHO but “Leeway” (or is it “Lee-Way” ?) is still hugely listenable and a must have for any Morgan/McLean fan.
    Regarding Soho in London’s West End in the late 50’s up to mid 60’s, cheap, sleazy, seedy does not really cover all the aspects of the district. You could also add colourful, exciting, youthful and dangerous! It was THE place to seek out authentic live Jazz, R&B and Folk music in the grey double-decade that followed WW2…….and only a few tube train stops away from my home in North London.


    • In the ’50s, Bill, I was still in short pants. It was not until the later ’60s I was legally able to buy a drink. I yield to your timely Soho knowledge. I did attend Bunjies Folk Club around 1966 -John Renbourn and Bert Jansch? – but I missed out my heroin round.


      • Ah….Bert Jansch… Scot’s Hoose, Les Cousins, Bunjies…Folk & Jazz…Tubby’s Big Band…Manor House & Klooks Kleek ….and a small basement club in Oxford Street (not the 100 Club) where John Dankworth’s Band literally blow us away with the power of his front-line horn section (“Straight, No Chaser” ..whoosh…a seminal moment). Wasted youth….wish I could go back….by 1966 we had decamped to East Kent and the quiet life……by late 80’s or early 90’s we had sold all,
        or most, of our vinyl to “Ray’s Records” in Shaftsbury Avenue for some much wanted cash…….If only I could go back….


  4. Have you had an opportunity to try one of the “sonication” RCMs? Seems like a very good approach to dislodge crud from the grooves. But the cost is beyond my budget.


  5. “Lee-Way” might not swing as hard as Morgan’s other dates, but the tunes are great and the playing is top-shelf stuff. A very evenly paced album, much like Sonny Clark’s “Leapin’ & Lopin'” and one of my favourite Blue Note releases.


  6. Enjoyed the selected track- good (in my opinion) to hear McLean’s alto held in check and Bobby Timmon’s piano is a joy. One that I will investigate, on the strength of this, when a copy comes my way.


  7. I find a RCM helps with removing static and surface contaminants on new LP’s, as well as resurrecting old ones. Lee- Way is probably my favorite LP with Morgan as a leader. Thanks for inspiring me to pull it off the shelf later today for a listen.


  8. I own a nice 200 gram Classic Records reissue (mono). The Amazon reviewer got it right LJC, “These Are Soulfuls Days,” as do the others, sound like sassy Manhattan at late evening to me.

    Speaking of Classic Records, I have come to settle for nicely done reissues when the ‘sort after’ originals are out of reach, which is most of the time for me.


  9. This is a favorite of mine actually; own a mint King pressing and an orig mono W 63rd with DG on both sides in similiar condition to your copy. Found it on discogs for $60 a year or so ago. A strong VG player that will tide me over until I have some surplus of cash to spend on a near mint copy!


  10. Man, the way that bold orange pops on that cover, I’m such a huge fan. Ironically, I’ve heard this album several times and can’t seem to get into it! :\ Anyway, you certainly got this copy sounding pretty good surface noise-wise (the quieter parts of the needle drop you posted sound fantastic!), though I am hearing some distortion from wear…a ‘strong VG’ play grade IMO.

    As for a cleaning machine, I have a VPI 16.5 on the way! I’ve owned one in the past but needed to pawn it when I was in grad school and broke. So excited to get back to cleaning my records and getting the most out of them! Serious vinyl collectors, I agree, a RCM is a necessity…glad I can finally afford one!


    • I’m with you Rich – this one never grabbed me. Don’t know why, as Lee is a personal favorite and the personnel on the date couldn’t be better.


      • Yeah Joe, I love Morgan, but for me, for example, “Candy” is an absolutely perfect album start to finish. I am however going to revisit this album on the strength of all the very positive comments here.


        • Two gorgeous records. I always favored Lee-Way over Candy, but I re-listened Candy last year and I’m just wild about the way Morgan carries the album as the sole horn player, so I kind of reversed my opinion. And what a beautiful, broad sound! (RvG in top form) I own the same copy of Lee-Way as LJC’s above mentioned, and have a mono copy of Candy as well. My only Morgan vinyl on Blue Note to date, bought them about twenty years ago, but thoroughly enjoyable.

          Art Blakey’s shuffle and bombs on Lee-Way’s opening cut, These Are Soulful Days, kill me time and again. By the way, the most beautiful version I know of this tune is by organist Don Patterson, (including Tootie Heath and Pat Martino) on the Muse album with the same title. I love it when the best play Hammond and this is just killer bee.


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