Lee Morgan: Sextet (1969) King, Japan

Selection: Mr Johnson (Mabern)

Artists

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Mickey Roker (drums),  Harold Mabern (piano), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Julian Priester (trombone), Walter Booker (bass) recorded September 12 & October 10, 1969.

The 1969 Sextet are all hot players, a triple brass line-up with solid George Coleman in the horn seat.

Music

A late recording for the Blue Note label in 1969, with Liberty Records struggling under the yoke of diversified financial conglomerate Transamerica, looking nervously over their shoulder at Transamerica’s other label, United Artists.

Lee Morgan  here, over ten years into his meteoric Blue Note career, six years after his monster hit The Sidewinder, and three years before his final recording session in 1972.

Sessions as leader were few and far between at this time, and in these final few years, Morgan recorded on a slew of soul-jazz organ titles, including  Larry Young (Mothership), (Dr) Lonnie Smith (Turning Point),  Reuben Wilson (Love Bug) and Charles Earland (Intensity).

He is often described as “experimenting with soul jazz“. How so, experimenting? Not being a huge fan of soul-jazz organ, I don’t have any of these titles.  Any thoughts about Morgan’s playing here and on these titles in general more than welcome.

Vinyl: GXF 3024 King Records Japan

First released in 1978, Japan, “Unissued Masters Series”…and parallel release  in the UA Jazz Classics Two-fer series.

Collector’s Corner

The King cover design is a doppleganger of an earlier Lee Morgan Sextet title, BN1541, also known as “Lee Morgan Volume 2: Sextet“, of a quite different calibre line up (and price tag).

The only justification of copying something is if you think you can improve on it. Nice try, but lacking the reflective poise of Francis Wolff’s original portrait. The problem is the direction of gaze isn’t quite convincing. And Wolff has mastery of the highlights, the latter has him lost in shadows.

Many of the titles in the Unissued Masters Series, issued by King in Japan at this time,  were also issued at the same time in the US in the United Artists LT series, or in this case, the Jazz Classics two-fer series, selling at around a quarter of the price. It pays to do your homework.

One source of confusion results from the Jazz Classics two-fer being titled “The Procrastinator”, but paired with this recording as the second LP, which has no title other than “Lee Morgan Sextet”, which is also the title of BN 1541, which is unhelpfully called just “Lee Morgan” on the cover.

The Japanese edition is one of the King Records “Unissued Masters Series“. It was previously unissued, but then also  issued by United Artists in the US at the same time as the King issue. Sort of “Not Previously Re-issued Masters Series”… Anyway, it has a nicer cover, even if it is the same picture. But not that of “The Procrastinator”…

…which has this cover on the Japanese and later mid ’90s Connoisseur edition.

You are following all of this, aren’t you?

In passing, I thought to check the latest peak auction value for original Lee Morgan other Sextet Blue Note: BN1541 falls some way behind his other titles, just outside the top ten at $2600, but look where some of his other titles lead, with “Indeed” in the same league as Mobley 1568. Any sellers out there, note, the new word to add value to auctions is “SUPERB”

Personally I shall stick with my Japanese copies. Neither Rare! nor Superb!, but a word which doesn’t exactly set pulses racing:  Affordable!,

Postscript:

The new Lee Morgan film on release: (UK Premier July 28, 2017)

Official Trailer

Excerpt (Italian Subtitles)

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12 thoughts on “Lee Morgan: Sextet (1969) King, Japan

  1. I just gave side one of Mothership a listen and it’s rather uninspiring. Morgan in particular seems disinterested or disorientated or possibly both. Not sure exactly why it doesn’t work, perhaps because of the two man rhythm section with Young playing keys and bass with his feet. The drummer is trying to do too much and the whole thing lacks a platform. Then again a two man rhythm section didn’t cause Woody Shaw and Joe Henderson any problems four years earlier on Unity. Probably it’s just that Young’s writing isn’t up to it.

  2. In other comments you note the two-fers as having very good sound. How do you think the sound of the Japanese reissue compares to the two-fers? I have the two-fer and like the performances, but then I am a Morgan fan. Thanks!

    • On my system and to my ears, the UA two-fer Jazz Classics edition sounds better than the King edition: more punchy and direct, while the King is softer and slightly veiled in comparison. The beige cover two-fers are mostly gems, with just one or two exceptions: The Art Pepper and Chick Corea get my thumbs down, and a couple of them are not previously unissued, but reissues of already released material.

        • Musically, artistically, it’s great.

          Audio-wise, it comes across as a thin transfer, lacks the dynamic and tonal range of many of the other twofers from the vaults, Van Gelder fingerprints missing.

          The Corea I dislike for artistic reasons. Listening, I began to lose interest. Just an opinion.

  3. A timely choice with the “I Called Him Morgan” documentary just receiving it’s UK première this week, Andy. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’ll be showing somewhere near me or on Netflix or somewhere (anywhere) that I can actually see it!

    I’m going to unashamedly confess to owning some of those records you’ve listed above as late 1960s sideman appearances by Morgan. Reuben Wilson’s Lovebug is pretty good; Lonnie Smith’s Turning Point is weaker. However, Morgan also appears on Lonnie Smith’s Think! which is a terrifically enjoyable session (especially Hugh Maseka’s Son of Icebag). Other notable sideman appearances by Morgan from this period that I recommend include Jack Wilson’s On Children and Harold Mabern’s Greasy Kid Stuff.

    • I just saw “I Called Him Morgan” streaming on Netflix here in the states the other night, definitely worthwhile for the Lee Morgan fan!

    • I watched “I Called Him Morgan” last night on Netflix, and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in 1950’s, ’60’s jazz (uh, everyone reading this blog?). While it’s a familiar story, it’s interesting to hear it told by those who were there. Plus, you get lots of vintage performance footage, and plenty of historical tidbits.

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