Year-End Wrap Up. Having strayed this year into the Seventies, crossed the Atlantic to home, flirted with different jazz labels and genres, toyed with some modern reissues, I wanted to end the year returning to basics: the sound of Blue Note of the Sixties. I’ve chosen one of its’ signature sounds and artists, Lee Morgan, celebrated this year significantly on film.
About a dozen Lee Morgan titles have been posted on LJC. I even finally got around to posting The Procrastinator.Most of my Morgan good titles are here, including recent catch up with The Sidewinder, but here is one that almost got away, underappreciated and overlooked in the shadow of The Sidewinder, The Rumproller.
Cover now yellowed with age, water-stains, rough corners, ring-wear, but…inside is a 1965 boogaloo-shakin’ hips-swivellin’ fingers snappin’ groove bursting to get out. Com’mon, Let’s Get It On, gimme hipster-talk...Rump-winder!..Side-roller!. Wha-tever..get with the groove… But to start, something quite different, a little Sunshine Dessert.
Selection: Desert Moonlight (Morgan)
Lee Morgan – trumpet; Joe Henderson – tenor sax; Ronnie Mathews – piano; Victor Sproles – bass; Billy Higgins – drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 21, 1965, released January 1966.
Artists of note – Joe Henderson, tenor, Ronnie (Doin’ the Thang) Mathews, piano,
As well as a boogaloo track, there is a lot of music here worthy of attention, including the Wayne Shorter tune Edda, and the classic Morgan composition Desert Moonlight. Morgan is as exciting a player as ever, and solid Joe Henderson performance to delight, and Ronnie Mathews swings suitably funky in place of Barry Harris, driven by the faultless propulsion of Billy Higgins. Not to omit early Sun Ra bassist Victor Sproles, ( Supersonic Jazz, Sound of Joy, 1956! Saturn!!)
Pub Quiz Alert! What is a “Sidewinder“? Originally a species of snake; now more commonly referred to as “someone whose devious and deceitful nature is readily apparent, and as a result, they can’t follow the straight and narrow”. Ah, but who or what is a Rumproller? After scouring ten pages of search engine results, it is clear that a Rumproller is “an album by jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan released on the Blue Note label in 1965“.
Tendance Boogaloo put the flags out, call in the go-go dancers, another twist in The Sidewinder direction, a year and a half later. Blue Note looked to replicate its surprise hit of “The Sidewinder“, following essentially the same formula – one boogaloo track aimed at the charts, and a side and a half of more mainstream hard bop, including the gorgeous latin/minor-themed “Desert Moonlight” (my selection),
The Rumproller is often slighted as an unsuccessful “Search for Another Hit”, which sells it short, and nothing wrong with searching for hits, people got to eat, and a few hits paid for many less-commercial Blue Note issues. True, The Rumproller wasn’t as popular as The Sidewinder, but then neither were most of Morgan’s other albums “popular” in comparison. Mobley 1568 wasn’t “popular” at all, selling fewer than 800 copies. Popularity is a poor yardstick by which to judge music.
If anyone was unhappy with Rumproller sales it would have been Andrew Hill, hoping for Sidewinder-level composer royalties.Dang, you “sell out” and write a simple pop tune, and it doesn’t sell. Bummer.
What probably catapulted Sidewinder to popularity was the radio-play/ jukebox single (BN 1911), which reached #25 in the US Pop Charts, but not helped by an oft-quoted car commercial. The story goes that Morgan was watching the Baseball World Series on TV when he heard his own tune on a Chrysler spot ad, unauthorised. Chrysler withdrew it under threat of a lawsuit., apparently the American Way. Sounds perfect product placement to me, the additional airplay would have pushed Sidewinder still higher in the charts, and may be got Morgan a free Chrysler, celebrity endorsement, but no, send in the lawyers, everybody loses (apart from them).
A glance through Amazon customer reviews (for the CD of course) toe the same obvious line: if you were going to buy just one groover it would be The Sidewinder. Wrong question beget wrong answers. I say, buy them both. And Search For A New Land. And Cornbread. And The Gigolo, and The Sixth Sense… And all the others, get all of them, you don’t have to choose between them. Time to be greedy, miserable CD buyers, (or may be that’s just Amazon buyers). They aren’t hearing how really exciting these Blue Notes are, on vinyl – and oh in mono.
Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 4119
Cover: Un-laminated, off-white Blue Note cover, obviously handled regularly, taken to dance parties, beer tipped over it, then stored in a damp garage or loft space by the proud owner of a new CD player, circa 1982. Not pretty.
Cover design typography nerds have pointed out that Reid Miles dramatic cover design, the flowing text, title and artist, forms a seriffed number 1, subliminally suggesting a number one chart hit. Gosh these guys are clever. (Narrows eyes). May be, too clever.
Van Gogh on Vinyl? I think Rumproller is my only Blue Note original with the Plastylite ear missing on one side. Maybe it is there, but the thingumyjig or whatever that added the ear was aligned incorrectly and it didn’t leave an impression. The ear on Side 2 tells me it is the real thing. Curiosity, are other copies sans-oreille on Side 1?
The matrix number is inscribed in a very small neat precise hand, very unlike Van Gelder’s large flowing letters and numbers. It did make me wonder.
Because “everyone knows” it is a poor imitation of The Sidewinder, The Rumproller is a bargain. Popsike picks up the story. Apart from the “moment of madness” that top auction price of $390, we are in the $100-$200 bracket for the top 25 auctions, and many more a lot less , over 400 issues of various description sold at Ebay. So it may not have been “popular” but a heck of a lot of copies exist and have changed hands at reasonable prices. As expected, mono dominates the premium sales.
I had a Liberty stereo copy of this for years and hardly ever played it because of surface noise. When I stumbled on an original mono copy, I grabbed it, paid a hefty sum, but mounting it on the turntable all concerns are pushed aside, sound is just gorgeous. Feisty room filling mono. What do Amazon CD shoppers know? The price of everything. Any minute now, the Mono Fundamentalists will arrive, and turn up their noses, sneering: fold-down.
Side-roller or Rump-winder? You decide. Prepare yourself to Boogaloo in the New Year. I will be peeking through curtains to watch and award marks for cool moves, suitably Sixties hand movements, like climbing a rope with both hands, hitchhiking, locomotion, swim, pony and the mashed potato. Preferably all at once. Boogaloo is irresistible, it’s a celebration of the human spirit
LJC New Year’s Eve Jazz Party starts here, each selection from Blue Note original mono.
The Rumproller (Andrew Hill)
. . .
The Sidewinder (Lee Morgan)
. . .
Like I said, you don’t always have to choose between things, sometimes you can have them both.
Happy New Year to all readers, 2019 beckons, and I predict it’s going to be another jazzy year. We may go here, we may go there, but the underlying theme will continue to be the search for the good stuff, especially those overlooked and under-appreciated gems.
POSTSCRIPT Always leave people with a question. Give us an idea of your listening tastes, during the last year, can you name any records that have spent most time on your turntable? A deceptively simple question that may innocently smoke out some closet Abba fans. I’ve got a couple that have been on the deck almost every day over the last few months, subject of first post in the new year.
NEW YEAR ADDENDUM
Does anyone have any idea how physically and mechanically the Plastylite “ear” was applied? All we know is that it is not on any of the metal parts and it was probably applied in the plant during pressing. I have two 47W63rd copies of 1541. The ear is same position and angle on Side 1 on both copies, but the position on side 2 is a half inch different . So its position and angle can varies from one pressing run to another, though not always. What kind of device behaves this way?