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.
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.
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.