Lee Morgan: Vol.2 (1956) Blue Note1541 – King, Japan 1979

Selection: Whisper Not (Golson)                                                                                        .  .  . .  .  ..                                                                                                                                                         Thad Jones (“Mad Thad”, Period Records) and Lee  Morgan (“Vol.2,” Blue Note) recorded their own versions of Whisper Not nearly a year before its composer had the chance to record it for himself, with his own group: Benny Golson’s New York Scene, recorded 14 & 17 November 1957 for Contemporary, with Art Farmer on horn.                                                                                                                                                          Whisper Not is one of the most distinctive of Golson’s many memorable compositions, which became a jazz standard, recorded by hundreds of other musicians, the royalties from which no doubt helped convince Golson of the merits of a future career in composing and arranging rather than performing jazz. The main variations of the tune are often the tempo – some very down-tempo, some quite perky, it plays well either way. I closed last evening listening to Tubby Hayes Jazz Couriers (Tempo TAP 26) Whisper Not, Tubby on vibes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Tracklist :

A1.Whisper Not (Golson)  – (Golson) – 7:20

A2. Latin Hangover (Golson, arr. Owen Marshall) – 6:43

A3. His Sister (Marshall, arr. Golson) – 6:32

B1. Slightly Hep (Golson, arr. Marshall) – 6:27

B2. Where Am I? (Golson, arr. Marshall) – 5:49

B3. D’s Fink (Marshall, arr. Golson) – 7:41

Slightly Hep almost crossed the finishing line, but Whisper Not made it by a nose.                                                                                                                                                 Artists                                                                                                                          Lee Morgan, trumpet; Kenny Rodgers, alto saxophone; Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Horace Silver, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Charlie Persip, drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 2, 1956.                                                                                                                                                                                              Lee’s line-up highlights the emerging careers of those early Blue Note years. Silver was a well-established piano choice, Mobley a fledgling – like Morgan. Paul Chambers and Charlie Persip are a solid and reliable rhythm nucleus.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Kenny Rodgers, alto, is a wild card, (his internet footprint completely swamped by country music icon Kenny Rogers, no “d”).  Rodgers played With Grover Mitchell And His Orchestra and The Baritone Saxophone Retinue, names which register little with me. Altos were in plentiful supply in New York, Rodgers’ brief appearance seems his first and last, not unlike Morgan’s previous choice in tenor saxophone, on Vol.1, Clarence “C” Sharpe, whose brief appearance later descended to street musician, jam sessions, sideman, and premature demise aged only 53.

There is a catalogue of personal hardship under the music, which makes it all the more poignant because it is concealed: you are hired for the music, musicians understand it’s the performance that matters.  The listener has come to escape their problems, not listen to yours. Harsh but true.

Music: It’s Benny Golson time again, the composing magic assisted here by one Owen Marshall, a new name to me, but with a good jazz pedigree. Though not present in person like on Vol3., Golson and his  compositions remain the star performer of this session, credited with four of the six tracks. Lee Morgan is unspeakably talented, barely 18 years of age, carrying the burden of the melodies, wrestling magnificently with his solo space, recorded loud and bright by Van Gelder. Horace Silver’s smiling piano bounces along, Paul Chambers walks assuredly around the many changes in Golson’s compositions, anchored by Persip…                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Rodgers is an unexpected feisty altoist with an aggressive line of attack, contrasting sharply with Mobley’s malted-chocolate toned schmoozing tenor. Mobley is not as forward in the presentation as he could be, or would be when leading his own titles, but his vocabulary and timbre remains compelling and interesting, always love Hank. The ensemble is a little recessed, shades of Sun Ra Chicago ballroom 1950s ambiance, but the soloists cut through, piercing volume and upper frequency detail. And all the time Golson’s melody and counter melodies, call and answer, weaving away. The structure of this music is a marvel, simply demanding repetition…

Vinyl: BLP 1541 – GXK 8134 (M)  King Records, Japan 1979 

Originally I had Japanese pressings  marked down generally for their timidity and lack of punch compared to the American originals, and I still think that is broadly true. But, revisiting the Lee Morgan King pressings in my collection, with all the sonic improvements of the last couple of years, they have come up in my estimation.  This observation is aimed at Blue Note 1500 series recordings made between 1956-58. 1500 series originals are hard-core trophy collectors territory, rare as hen’s teeth, and priced mostly in four figures. As an audiophile listener rather than a collector, I can’t compare these Lee Morgan titles exactly 1:1, but the King sound quite full in tonal range and dynamics, but not all, and not always. My impression is that the early 1500 source recordings can be a bit one-dimensional and primitive, boxed-in. (Panic! LJC has spoken, owners of originals rush to offload their collection on Discogs. No reasonable offer refused!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              By 1958, Van Gelder recordings became more fluent and nuanced, better instrument separation and focus, more air, presumably as Van Gelder developed his recording skills and equipment. Were he with us,  I’m sure he would agree. July 1959 signalled the end of the Hackensack era,  and Van Gelder moved into purpose-built Englewood Cliffs for a reason: like every engineer, committed to process improvement. Maybe on my own here, but I am beginning to suspect that my early criticism of Japanese pressings should more properly have been directed at the quality of early recordings, which engineers in Japan reproduced faithfully. It is with the end of 1500 and commencement of the 4000 series recordings that original recording quality improved significantly, and the quality of reissues comes into play. This is territory I feel more confident in, with both originals and vintage Japanese reissues on my shelf for comparison.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Vinyl manufactured by King at the end of the 70s is high quality, very low noise-floor, with few if any imperfections – physically or sonically.  Warning: cultural appropriation in progress ;-] They do benefit from an ultrasonic clean to remove any  natto spills from their hashi (hat-tip David B), soy sauce splashes, residue of mould-release, and accumulated domestic dust.

The new Dynavector XV1T cartridge is not very tolerant of groove-obstruction, or forgiving of poor recordings, but lifts the best audio presentation to an all-time high, very nice, and quite scary. The Kings show up well.                                                                                                                                                                       

Collector’s Corner Lorra-Wonga Alert!                                                                                                                                                                                                           Lexington mono label, no ®, deep groove, flat-rim, frame cover (but laminated? hmmm)                                                                                                                                              and Liberty “stereo” to avoid – a one track mono recording, electronically monkeyed with to create a stereo sound-stage. Horrible. But lots of good mono Japanese pressings:                  Konnichiwa, Nihon! (Hello, Japan!)
I had not previously lined up my three King/ Lee Morgan 1500 series titles, and it makes an interesting contrast to play them “as a series”, rather than randomly among other albums of different times and artists. It is probably more revealing still to add 1575 City Lights (August 25,1957); 1578 The Cooker (September 29, 1957); and 1590 Candy (November18,1957)          Less than a month elapsed between the recording of vol1 and Vol2, nearly four months between Vol2 and Vol3, Van Gelder must have been making leaps and bounds in his recording technique.   Vol 3 sounds fuller and fatter than Vol 2, particularly stronger bass extension. Vol2 is in turn richer and more refined than Vol1, which sounds a little boxed-in, hollow, and lacking punch (but will still cost you a fortune) There has to be a lot to learn from these albums as a sonic “family”. King 1979 pressings were all remastered from a common batch of analogue copy tapes sent from United Artists in LA. What is their sonic-distance from originals? Do King’s have a common sonic fingerprint? Can we talk about how Kings sound? …                                                                                                                                                                                                Improvement in Van Gelder’s recording quality over time is a hypothesis I’d like to  pursue. Van Gelder’s recording at Hackensack developed over the year these sessions were recorded.  Can you hear that improvement in the recordings, replayed today? He was making them better, why should they not sound better? The answer to these questions require comparative listening, beyond the “sounds great to me” threshold. Do they all sound equally great? .  .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Here is the cast of thousands, Lee’s Line-ups in the space of just one year, Blue Note titles from late 1956 to late 1957:                                                                                                   The reason why Vol.3 is so successful is owed to the best line-up: Gryce, Golson, Kelly, and the rest of course, and Vol.2 thanks to Mobley and Silver, both with a strong presence of Chambers. City Lights: compositions I find bland and Coleman/Fuller don’t gel for me. The Cooker: a baritone and trumpet pairing that doesn’t work for me either.  These titles paved the way to Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where Lee Morgan and the full instrumental gamut comes into play, where Vol.3 left off. There, that’s me off a few Christmas Card lists.

Anyone with originals of one or all Morgan 50’s titles are welcome to comment on the sonics. (No, I don’t want to hear about their lovely covers, I already know that!). More discovery on these lines when I add Lee Morgan Indeed! (Vol1) into the equation, in a forthcoming post, and probably more titles, in the endless search for jazz audio-nirvana .                                                                                                                                            LJC: On The  Horizon – Tone Poet 2023                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Christmas clock is ticking .  .  . New Year on the horizon. Tone Poet release schedule, to be published 15th December, came and went. Eagle-eyed sleuth Carlos spotted a promo hastily withdrawn, but not before he grabbed it. Coming for your credit card shortly:                                                                                                                                  Also this slipped under the radar: Can’t wait for 2023, though I guess we will all have to.                                                                                                                                                                                                 If you have any personal feedback on the current crop of reissues – Pharoah’s Karma, Donald Byrd at Montreux, only bona fide audiophile, remastered from original tapes. There is plenty of undisclosed (digital file) source coloured vinyl to avoid, and public domain grey. Here’s a couple I spotted – Blue Train on vinyl, “Music Legends” for only 5 euros, and blimey, it’s an “original album”!
Give us a shout. Get your thoughts to the keyboard..

LJC Apologies for some formatting problems with this post (headings and paragraphs running into each other) This is due to WordPress and intrusion by its annoying new “block editor”. Like many so called tech improvements, it mucks up what was working perfectly well, so that some novice fashion-blogger can build a site in only two clicks, to tell the world what hat they are wearing today  (million followers! Where can I buy that hat?)

LJC, 11 years with the WordPress  “Classic Editor”, wanna see my new merino-blend Rohan beanie hat?  No. 1,500 followers, find your own damned hat.


14 thoughts on “Lee Morgan: Vol.2 (1956) Blue Note1541 – King, Japan 1979

  1. Hi I got the presumes non Plastylite 1966 Liberty mono repress of Lee’s vol 2 Sextet. Wonderful LP. It has a non-laminated non-frame cover with Lex adress. Also New York USA labels, non DG, beaded rim – but actually uses the old metalwork from Rudy with hand-etched matrix and the old wavering end-out groove so very old stampers I guess. I’m just a bit puzzled since I thought the old stampers were not really transferred to the third party pressing plants??


    • Lexington cover? NY USA label? Van Gelder metal, but no ear? – a Frankenstein Edition – made up of parts that don’t belong together. As far as I know, there wasn’t an NY label release, but maybe one was prepared but abandoned, just labels printed, Liberty got hold of stuff, old stock covers, Van Gelder stampers, cannibalised inventory to create a mono edition to go with the fake-stereo one they did issue. Serendipity.! Some photos would be helpful.


        • Yup, I see 1541, Lex cover, NY label, no ear, RVG metal. No need for pictures, my mistake, I got confused between 1541 and 1557. Writing about all three Morgan Volumes including 1538 at the same time, it happens!

          Your 1541 is an All Disc pressing, nothing too mysterious. Legacy metal was signed over to Liberty along with existing stocks of labels, which were used with a number of Liberty reissues/ or repressings by All Disc. I suspect Plastylite held a library of stampers for periodic repressings, and these were put at the disposal of All Disc. The oddity is the Lexington slick on your back cover. I guess a mono reissue of 1541 had been planned before the Liberty take over, hence printed NY labels, but had not progressed as far as jacket fabrication, so Liberty cannibalised old stock slicks/covers from the original 1957/8 mono pressing.

          I see no copies of this edition have ever been sold on Discogs. By 1966 the big demand was for stereo, so the mono edition must have been a small run. That is a really nice find, and very rare, congratulations.


  2. In the fifties and sixties Clarence C. Sharpe was an active member of the Philadelphia jazz scene. Not all musicians sought the limelight and were content as “sidemen” especially if it meant playing with such Philadelphia talents as Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison et al. and later, in New York, with such luminaries as Kenny Durham, Joe Henderson and Archie, Shepp. There was indeed tragedy in Sharpes’ death, at a relatively early age, of cancer.

    In the early sixties, Sharpe owned his own club in downtown Philly, appropriately named C Sharpes, a warm and friendly place that was not above letting in the occasional under-age jazz enthusiast, including myself. One memorable evening there, a prosperous looking white family came in – Mom, Dad and their boys. The older of the two got out a trumpet, joined the house band and blew the roof off with his obvious talent. This may have been the first professional appearance of Randy Brecker, who would go on to join Al Kooper’s Blood, Sweat and Tears, creating one of the first genuine jazz-rock fusions (quite unlike Miles’ form), then join his younger brother saxophonist Michael in the (financially) successful Brecker Brothers band, earning enough to open their own New York jazz club, the beautiful Seventh Avenue South, just down the street from the Village Vanguard.

    Thanks for this and all the other excellent postings throughout the year. The LJC is definitely a highlight of the online jazz scene. Hope you have a very happy holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely story DG, and appreciation of Clarence. I read his first college band was called “C Sharpe and the Flats”. Great name. This is a King journey of rediscovery, hopefully we will all get some extra enjoyment from spinning some old friends on the turntable this Christmas.


  3. Kinda similar- I was fortunate enough to pick up 3 copies of Blue Train in a week
    1978 Japanese stereo
    1967 Liberty stereo
    1959 mono
    These were added to a 2016 180gm copy I already had
    The 59 is an absolute beauty aside from one bad scratch across a single track (such a shame)
    I’m no audiophile and my set up is pretty simple – but – the 59 mono sounds amazing and to my ear wins hands down


  4. still super cool to own the king since the OG costs an arm and a leg. still waiting for the BN reissue of art blakey mosaic and i just have a feeling they will release blue train in stereo(w/o the bonus extras) on blue note classic. thanks for sharing LJC


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