LJC Special Selection: Albums I initially avoided due to presence of turkeys, but which also contain prime cuts: BST 84243 Lee Morgan’s Delightfulee. Apologies in advance to lovers of the Fab Four, and cranberry sauce.
Selection: Nite Flite (Morgan)
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Lee Morgan Quintet: Lee Morgan, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 27, 1966.
On Sunrise Sunset (Bock-Harnick) and Yesterday (Lenin and McCartney): Lee Morgan, Ernie Royal, trumpet; Tom McIntosh, trombone; Jim Buffington, French horn; Don Butterfield, tuba; Phil Woods, alto sax, flute; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Danny Bank, baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute; McCoy Tyner, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums; Oliver Nelson, arranger, recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ., April 8, 1966
Hey, mister, who’s paying for these two trays of donuts?
Don’t look at me, says Rudy, fastidiously brushing white icing sugar off his black gloves. Oliver? Are you there Oliver? Someone to see you…
Perhaps I’m being harsh, but a cover of Lenin & McCartney songs tends to make me queasy. It’s not like anyone can add anything to such strong tunes, it becomes karaoke, Lee miming the words.. Then there is the addition of the lead song from Fiddler on the Roof (which opened on Broadway two years earlier, in 1964). I’m surprised Lee didn’t throw in a couple of tunes from West Side Story and My Fair Lady to just finish it off. I had to ask: Lee, WTF is this material doing on a jazz album?
I assume Liberty put pressure on Lee to “broaden his audience”, perhaps the Boogaloo Track 1 formula had worn thin. (Not here it hadn’t!) The mystery is that the two sessions – April 8 and May 27 – fell inside the closing months of Blue Note before the sale to Liberty. The absence of a pre-printed NY label and jacket for 8423 suggests the track selection was not finalised until after the sale to Liberty, who called the shots and instructed Van Gelder to include the pop-covers on the title.
There is also some great material on the album which deserves greater recognition, if not put off by the Broadway tunes and Beatles. It includes bright long spidery McCoy Tyner comp and solos, Henderson extends from hard-tone to squawk and honking, and finally into “strangulated harmonics™”, which he was perfecting at this time. Morgan has a particularly dense, rich tone, which somehow makes me think of Heinz condensed tomato soup, with pepper and spice vibrato and a whisk of cream to finish. Philly Joe stirs things along nicely.
In case you were wondering, why all these food metaphors, I lost over three kilo with the flu recently! I find them popping into my head for some reason, like the body trying to tell you something. Food Parcels, LJC ! Send Calories!
Also, you need to be warned. After a couple of spins of this album, you might catch yourself humming along to.. Sunrise… Sunset…Sunrise… It’s a damn catchy tune! I have an excellent Sonny Criss rendition of same, from the excellent This Is Criss.
In addition to the selection Nite Flite, there is a beautifully understated waltz The Delightful Deggie, dedicated to a relative of McCoy Tyner. Morgan’s penchant for dedicating songs to various ladies would eventually to get him into serious trouble, not unlike Miles and his cover-wives: you are just never going to get away with it. Lee? Just who is this “Carolyn” on your new album? Just a friend, sweetcakes, just a friend…
Because it is something of a revelation, I throw in the waltz: The Delightful Deggie. A waltz tempo is going to be a bit of a risk, but works very well here, and Lee’s solo is particularly fruity, though Henderson feels a little uncomfortable with the ¾ timing.
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There is a three course meal in all this music, I swear.
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Vinyl: BNST 84243 – 1st issue by Liberty, VAN GELDER stamp, stereo.
Side Two is a first re-cut -B-1.
Labels look Keystone (Intertype Vogue typesetting on artist and album title) , the centre pressing ring is characteristic of around a quarter of Liberty Blue Note pressings, 1 1/8″ pressing die ring, chief suspect Southern Plastics, Tennesee, or someone else, no one knows for sure.
In addition to my “Southern Plastics?” edition, there are a couple of other Liberty editions, including a Bert-Co/West Coast remastered issue on which sellers omit mention of “Van Gelder” stamp (below right). Readers should be fairly adept now at spotting the Bert-Co SIDE 1.
I put off adding this record to my collection for a good number of years, due to the mere sight of a Lenin & McCartney song credit. Despite growing up in the midst of Beatlemania in ’60s Swinging London, we were saturated with The Fab Four and the relentless diet of pop magazines features (“which Beatle do you think is the cutest?“) Holy Walking Haircuts, none of them!
Yesterday originates on the album Help! released in the U K in August 1965, less than a year earlier, so it had not yet reached its iconic status in The Beatles songbook: it was a fairly recent pop hit at the time Morgan recorded it. Fiddler on the Roof likewise was a relatively young production at the time, which went on to enjoy over 3,000 performances over the following ten years. So the presence of these two tracks on a Blue Note album seems a major departure in Liberty thinking, an odd commercial judgement, Blue Note artists covering current pop tunes.
Oliver Nelson had been brought in to score and arrange a dozen musicians, Wayne Shorter and Phil Woods in the back row chatting over old times whilst blowing the odd harmony, a veritable New York Musician’s Stimulus Package.
So it came about that the lust for new material overcame my distaste for a couple of tracks, and to dive instead into the other material. Some great Henderson playing, and the pianist I forgot to mention as one of the best ever pianists, which will not be forgiven in a hurry, McCoy Tyner. The quintet benefits from the backbone of Billy Higgins, and there is more than enough excitement to pass on a few tracks.
However, there is no escape from Jazz on Broadway, they were all on board…
♪♫♪ Sunrise, Sunset, Sunrise… ♪♫♪ Damn it!!