Lee Morgan: The Sixth Sense (1967) Blue Note/Liberty UA

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Selection: Short Count (Morgan)

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The mandatory go-to boogaloo Morgan  track is  Psychedelic,  a sort of Sidewinder III with a Tijuana drive-thru/ Tex-Mex flavour ,  but other tracks stray into more interesting territory. My pick is the urban car-horn brio of Short Count: choppy boppy accents, stubby with underlying propulsion, cityscape, Jackie grabs a chance to wail, and Morgan excites. It all feels very New York.  Call me a cab, downtown!

Artists

Lee Morgan (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto sax) Frank Mitchell (tenor sax) Cedar Walton (piano) Victor Sproles (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 10, 1967

Headwear of note: Morgan is sporting an astrakhan hat, traditionally made from karakul Persian lamb fur. All hats are a statement.  In ’60s parlance, an astrakhan confers on the wearer the status of “serious artist/ intellectual”. Or alternatively, a Soviet dictator.

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Artist of Note: Frank Mitchell.

Tenor saxophonist Frank Mitchell played regularly with Lee Morgan at Slugs’. Like many tenor players of the time, he was a strong mainstream performer,  influences of Coltrane and Mobley, a little Henderson, a promising voice. He made only a handful of recorded appearances, a couple under Morgan’s leadership, also appearing on the 1966 Art Blakey album Buttercorn Lady in a line up with Keith Jarrett (!)

Soon after recording The Sixth Sense,  Mitchell’s body  was found floating in the East River. The East River exit route was also taken by another NY jazz giant, Albert Ayler, though in Mitchell’s case not by his own hand,  apparently the result of a drug deal that didn’t work out. For him, at least.  Mitchell’s short music career  ended abruptly, age 27, which is probably why the name is unfamiliar to many. I thought I had heard of him, but it was a  case of mistaken identity: Frank Mitchell, Frank Foster, Billy Mitchell, Blue Mitchell, Red Mitchell, …Roger Cook, Richard Cook,  I sometimes confuse names, but not to worry, it’s the internet, someone will call you out on any mistake pretty quick.

Music:

billboard-july-25-1970Transition between one of the most intriguing sextets during the last years of post-bop and Morgan’s final ensembles(All Music, 4 of 5 stars)

Morgan is credited with  four of the six tracks, noting his evolution from mere trumpet player to composer, though that may also underline the growing importance of royalties in the music business

Despite a recording date  at the end of 1967, the new release review in Billboard (July 25, 1970) indicates it was not released until mid-1970, firmly into the transitional Transamerica years  of Liberty, and shortly before the management merger with United Artists. This explains the late Liberty labels.

While emphasis is rightly given to recording dates as  signpost of artist development, the often concealed release date often tells us more about the context of the artist and the state of the industry.

Blue Note biographer Roger Richard Cook noted the 1967-71 Blue Note team of Francis Wolff and Duke Pearson running against signs of the times, as college audience attention moved to “singer-songwriters and album rock, Bob Dylan, Country Joe and The Fish, and Jefferson Airplane”. What did college audiences ever know about anything?  Culturally, jazz was simply moving from mainstream to niche, as electric guitar, protest lyrics and most important of all, hairstyles came to dominate youth attention.   From the vantage point of 2017, Blue Note was continuing to produce enduring music which is welcome on my turntable today, everyday, unlike that dated old West-Coast hippie guff.

Three horns (Morgan, McLean, Mitchell) pass the solo torch from one to another, keeping the mood cool and applying a little tension. Morgan’s characteristic warm confident tone, tight phrasing, lyrical melodic vocabulary. Jackie McLean is in fine form; fluid and impressionistic, turning on the heat where required.Cedar Walton continues to delight with his steadfast comping while Billy Higgins offer his reliable supple propulsion

Frank Mitchell showed tenor promise unfulfilled, a reminder that one of the most harmful aspects of drug use was not drugs themselves, but the sort of people users had to deal with to get them. It’s not generally good business to kill your customers, at least not straight away. Perhaps a pay-day-loan might have helped Frank meet the cost of his next score?

Vinyl: BST 84335

Recorded in the closing months of 1967, released by Liberty UA Inc. – Blue Note  under the conglomerate whip of “Transamerica Corporation” If there is one thing I do not want to be, it is to be entertained. Cover design Bob Venosa, no Reid Miles. It shows. However a VAN GELDER stamp shows all is well in the vinyl  fundamentals you can safely ignore the superficial  changes.

The run-out contains the inscrutable “114” etching found on a number of Liberty records, meaning unknown. If anyone wants to venture an explanation, save it, I’m not interested, I had that for a long time with the Blue Note 9M.

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Collector’s Corner

malformed-rSimultaneous east and west coast manufacture, the other Liberty release label shown below, classic BN design, but not any more authentic. Note the mal-formed ® under NOTE, characteristic of Late Liberty, print and pressing  farmed out and no longer under the aegis of All Disc and Blue Note’s original label printers, Keystone Printed Specialties.

My theory is that the use of cheaper paper stock for the label permitted the ink to bleed further through the fibres, “drowning” the fine circle around the registered mark. This could be completely wrong, but nowadays being wrong is an increasingly popular outcome.  Trending!  #LJCcompletelywrongagain.

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This is an undervalued Morgan title well worth seeking out. It is  not in the Blue Note 1500 series league, but you get an awful lot of music in exchange for very little money, rather than the other way around.And it’s available with Van Gelder , on my Liberty UA at least. The Discogs entry for the Division of Liberty classic label makes no mention of the VAN GELDER stamp. Come on guys, these things matter! Possibly it has, can anyone clarify?

I have a theory that Liberty/UA manufactured on both coasts, but that RVG metal didn’t always travel, hence some titles are found with and without Van Gelder.  #LJCanotheruselesstheory. Viral!

 

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15 thoughts on “Lee Morgan: The Sixth Sense (1967) Blue Note/Liberty UA

  1. I just obtained a copy with a hand etched 4335 run out and the plastylte ear. The labels don’t show liberty or UA. But 304 park Avenue S ,NYC.
    The record is AMAZING.

  2. As an earnest young jazz collector in the 80s, I used to subscribe to the Wire, a British jazz and new music magazine sadly long folded. Richard Cook was the editor, and I remember thinking, he has the greatest job in the world, and was a fine writer. I was sorry to hear of his passing so young. His erudite articles on Blue note back them coincided perfectly with a reissue programme much like the one we live in today with the company headed by Don Was, although I suppose there have been reissue programmes going on all the time, given that there are about 40 issues of Somethin’ Else for one example. For ages I resisted the hefty £20+ price tags the record shops wanted for those original pressings. When I bit the bullet in 1990 and forked out £30 for Morgan’s Candy, I felt guilty about it for months. Worked out alright in the end. Candy moved to Japan and I persuaded a younger 200 gram to move in with me.

  3. Have you read Robin D.G. Kelley’s thorough and excellent biography of monk? highly, highly, highly recommended. it also contains much more fascinating info about the hat.

    lee morgan is an artists i need more of. everything i hear of his is golden, but rarely do i FIND any of his records whilst digging.

  4. I reckon Lee’s run of ’60’s BN’s is of the VERY highest quality-not a dud in the bunch. Having said that, I’ve always regarded ’67’s ‘The Procrastinator’ [with Wayne, Bobby Hutchinson, Herbie] as the highest achievement of post bop. The records Lee made after this have always felt a bit ‘transitional’ to me. Up to ‘Live at the Lighthouse’-his finest hour of his late career [the cd version contains all three nights’ blistering performances]

  5. Excellent and underrated album, not unlike Morgan himself (who I always think produced more interesting music than he is credited for post-Sidewinder). My ‘classic’ Div. of Liberty edition is also the full VAN GELDER, the dreaded Transamerica pressing elevated by the freshness of the earlier recording, a relative bargain in the Blue Note world!

  6. I just pulled out my copy of reviewed album tomgive a listen. It is a dreaded blue Label with white B. But with Van Gelder Stamp and to my ears now sounds very very good. Are we to assume blue labels with Van Gelder Stamp are comprable sonically to Liberty or other UA
    copies also with Van Gelder Stamp? Or perhaps these are generally older well worn stampers?

  7. Yet another interesting recording unearthed. I’m not so keen on the car horn freneticism of the chosen track: ‘Short Count’ but each to their own. Thanks for the picture of rear sleeve. It is clear that Ed Williams’ notes soon fell prey to the passing of time; in particular the reference to the relationship with his partner Helen More who was to fatally shoot Morgan a couple of years later. The author also states that Lee Morgan had overcome his ‘drug addition’ (sic) which may not have been the case. The references to Morgan’s political consciousness are interesting (to me) though.
    In producing your review you have referred to foot in the door investigative journalist Roger Cook when you mean the late Richard Cook- but I won’t report you to the Jazz Police because of your sterling services to an appreciative readership. Long may they continue.

    • Damn! Richard, Roger, bad wiring crossover, writing from the hip, you are absolutely right, especially as Richard Cook’s tome is winking at me from the shelf. The grim reaper clearly took out the wrong man, not the foot-in-door investigative journalist. I will fix it immediately, and thank you for sparing my blushes.

      I wavered indecisively for many minutes in choosing the selection, as each track has its merits. Tomorrow I’d probably have chosen something different. It’s a good album.

      • you should run for US predident, LJC. getting things wrong is our favorite thing! and no matter the pesky qualifications about birth and such.

    • My reaction was the same as above (the car horn chords at the beginning and end of the track), you grit your teeth and wait for those magnificent solos, as good as any played on a Morgan release.

      I play the snot out of my ‘Procrastinator’ cd too.

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