Dick Morrissey: It’s Morrissey, MAN! (1961) Fontana

 

Selection B2: Happy Feet (Yellen, Ager) 3:05

.  .  .

Selection A2: Cherry Blue (Bill Le Sage) 3:21

.  .  .

Track List

A1. St. Thomas (Rollins)  3:51
A2. Cherry Blue (B Le Sage)  3:21
A3. A Bench In The Park (Yellen, Ager) 3:05
A4. Sancticity (Coleman Hawkins) 3:23
A5. Mildew (Johnny Griffin) 2:57
A5. Puffing Billy (Stan Jones) 2:46
B1. Gurney Was Here – aka Blue Waltz (Stan Jones) 4:22
B2. Happy Feet (Yellen, Ager) 3:05
B3. Where Is Love (Lionel Bart) 3:55
B4. Dancing In The Dark (Schwartz, Deitz) 3:35
B5. Willow, Weep For Me (Ann Ronell) 4:47
B6. Jellyroll (Mingus) 2:59

Artists

Dick Morrissey, tenor saxophone; Stan Jones, piano; Malcolm Cecil, bass; Colin Barnes, drums.; recorded in London, 27th April 1961.

Music 

Jazz Journal review  (December 1961 edition):

“The most immediately striking thing about Dick Morrissey’s tenor playing is its tremendous swing. It is no exaggera­tion to say that the music on this record swings as much as any British jazz ever did. The fact that Morrissey shows no great originality (a point which Benny Green makes at length in his liner note) is of comparatively little importance; the way he approaches a tune is particularly impressive, and brings to mind Johnny Griffin. Morrissey is young, and will undoubtedly develop his own musical personality. His playing already has an impressive aura of conviction and as­surance.
 
With the exception of “Willow”, which features Jones and the rhythm section, all the tracks have lengthy solos by Morrissey, brief solos by Jones, and sometimes bass or drums. Morrissey is well able to sustain interest over several choruses, and builds his solos excellent­ly. Jones is far less impressive, and his solos are almost invariably an anti­-climax. Cecil and Barnes work together well, and provide a driving beat.
 
Morrissey is undoubtedly one of the best British musicians to appear in good many years, and Fontana are to be congratulated on their courage in re­cording such a relative unknown.”

Fontana STFL 568; 12in LP;  rrp 37s. 2d. (a pricey £35 in today’s money)

I endorse the comment on Stan Jones lacklustre piano performance, brutally honest. (Jones was replaced by Harry South on piano on Morrissey’s next three albums)  The Morrissey performance is hard-swinging and sheer pleasure, twist and turn acrobatics, unpredictable rests , backflips and rapid fire sorties, all with indefatigable swing. What a fantastic start to a jazz career, his first solo album at the age of only 21.

Characteristically short tracks, and a potpourri of compositions – some popular tunes from the 1920/30s, Broadway show tunes, and covers of jazz heroes Rollins, Hawkins, Griffin, and Mingus. Ann Ronell’s Willow Weep for Me (her other best known song “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?” How did anyone get to write lyrics like this?)  Morrissey’s  tone in ballads is full, and his speed  can match Johnny Griffin (Mildew).

Morrissey plaudits from jazz critics selected from his  obituary (year 2000, age 60):

“Morrissey’s command of the tenor saxophone was masterly, but it was the unforced fluency of his playing, expressed in a characteristically broad and sweeping tone, that attracted the greatest admiration.  Despite the sophistication of his ideas there was often a down-home quality to his punchy and hard swinging solos. He was a lightning improviser and the flood of his inventions flew through his fingers with ease, a masterful player.”

Vinyl: Fontana TFL 5149 –   680 955 TL, mono, white label test pressing 

No purchase tax code stamped by the spindle hole as it would be on the commercial pressing (W/T or O/T at this time), text “not for sale”, thus no tax due.

Conventionally, I was told,  around a dozen sample copies of a record would be pressed and provided to the recording artists, producer, and label executives to sign-off before large scale production commenced, and likely remained in their possession. This was a different purpose to US  white label promos, distributed to hundreds of commercial radio stations. At this time the UK had just BBC radio, a virtual monopoly until the mid 1960s. though promo copies may have been distributed to the music press, and some taken home by staff at the pressing plant, I have heard anecdotes regarding Decca at New Malden. 

The first Fontana test pressing  I have seen. Shame about writing on the label, but it’s well intentioned. The TP has all the qualities I expect from first off the stamper pressing, sharp bright fresh presentation.

Art Director’s Tea Break:

The cover is a joy, iconic photo, quartet walking along the railway tracks with steep embankment, could be sub-titled “Points failure at Thames Ditton“, leaving the band to complete their journey to Surbiton on foot, instruments in tow. Walking order miss-step: horn leader, piano, drums and bass, should be bass then drums at the back, but aesthetically bass at the back works better. Typography hat-tip to America beat-speak: MAN! capitalised emphasis with shriek-mark. 1961: years of the suit, long before sportswear conquered the globe. No ingratiating smiles for the camera. Of its time, a period work of art. Could this photo have been taken today?

Collector’s Corner

Once again it’s our friends in Japan who have the only alternative vinyl reissue, one of the inscrutably titled  フォンタナ フィリップス幻の名盤 Fontana Firippusu Maboroshi-no Meiban / en: “Fontana And Philips marvelous and rare masterpieces” (hat-tip Clive D for brushing up the Discogs translation)  / brown on yellow logo. UCJU-90##: 44 to 57.

The Popsike history of the original is interesting for the absence of auction copies (in top condition) in recent years. Two copies in 2017, one copy in 2019, none since in the last two years, I guess that qualifies as “rare”.

If an original is rare, a test pressing the rarest of the rare, I had to have it, and dig deep. 

More British jazz another day, got other places to go.

LJC 

9 thoughts on “Dick Morrissey: It’s Morrissey, MAN! (1961) Fontana

  1. Haven’t found a copy of this on my travels yet, the only Morrissey LP i have kept in the collection is Storm Warning! I suspect this copy was from a particular east London record shop fairly recently? Saw it on the wall but didn’t enquire about price.

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    • You got me bang to rights, Harry, Yo Yo Records in Hackney was indeed the source. Let’s say it wasn’t cheap, but Derrick was running a 20% discount over that weekend, which loosened my wallet and closed the sale. I envy your copy of Storm Warning. My hope is that Decca will pull their finger out and deliver a quality reissue of that and other titles some time, but not much indication of life in that quarter. Meanwhile, Blue Note Vinyl Classics are pampering us with new titles every month, some great Joe Henderson soon, and some Mobley on the horizon.

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      • Ah yes, the best time to head in there for buying. Though I think they are open to offers on most of the higher ticket LP’s. A pal got their copy of Change Is for £350 which i think is a very fair price for such a rarity, as was this one i assume. These test pressings are extremely scarce.

        The Japanese pressings of these Morrissey LP’s are very high quality and a great substitute to these originals. They also issued the Boom Jackie Boom Chick LP in the same series I think….

        My storm warning is a tired looking copy but plays immaculately, i got it for £12 in snoopers paradise in Brighton, it even had a sticker on it saying “RARE”!

        I’m honestly not sure what will happen with a lot of the British jazz sessions that are languishing in the UMG vaults. I think the British Jazz Explosion series has simmered out.

        It’s a great shame. I have been in contact with a few friends over at UMG to try and see what he licensing issues may be for certain recordings, including the Mike Taylor Lansdowne LP’s but hit dead ends.

        Imagine an argo boxed set with all of the wonderful Garrick LP’s! I’d buy that in a heartbeat and sell the originals!

        Its like they don’t care 😂

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        • I surmise Decca is missing an inside jazz champion. Tony Higgins was the organising force behind the Jazz Explosion compilation, but now seems to be putting all his energies into Vintage Jazz from Japan, through BBE. Decca’s Christmas output was risible, it is a long time since Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, and no pre-order jazz titles in sight. I fear the British Jazz Explosion is now just a damp squib, so disappointing given the treasure trove they are sitting on. This jazz collector’s money will go instead to Blue Note Vinyl Classics and Tone Poets,

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          • It would be interesting to hear Tony’s take on the Decca situation. I’m in contact with him abut another matter and once we’ve finished that, I might ask him about Decca. I have heard rumours that manufacturing bottlenecks are an issue – limited capacity at pressing plants, big name vinyl releases like the new Adele LP hogging the presses, production for RSD 2022 etc – and have pushed jazz pressings down the queue. I don’t know how true that is but it’s a plausible theory. Of course it could be more prosaic and simply a case of the recent Jazz Explosion reissues not selling well and Decca/UMG pulling the plus on the rest of the planned schedule. Who knows?

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            • I have heard the same stories about bottlenecks in pressing capacity at Optimal and Pallas, record companies booking pressing slots up to a year in advance, some before they even have made the recording, so they can put together a delivery and release programme. There are certainly a vast number of short pressing runs of bands and new music being released on vinyl, as well as RSD 2022 and Adele. It’s all those Hackney DJ Hipsters again.

              As an aside, did anyone note the date yesterday was a very rare palindome – 22 02 2022 – which reads the same backwards as forwards (UK DDMMYYYY but not US format MMDDYYYYY) ! Is this something to celebrate? Well, any excuse, break out the champers, I’m up for it. Those other side of the pond will have to go without.

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  2. I am not familiar with this Benny Green. I read the name and thought of the trombone player; then looked and found he spells his name “Bennie”.

    I think the ‘no great originality’ bit was unkind from the jazz journal writer. Green doesn’t actually say that. Pointing out obvious influences on a 21-year old player isn’t the same as calling him unoriginal. Ok, he’s no Warne Marsh, but the guy can really play well. He had some style.

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