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Jazz Feature for Jan.28:Lee Morgan."The Procrastinator"
Lee Morgan was one of the most precocious musicians ever to hit the Jazz world. By the time he was 18, he had made his debut on Blue note records and was playing with the likes of Art Blakey in 1956. Morgan's mother felt that he was too young to hit the road with Blakey so he went home for a couple of months and with his mom's blessing joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band for a couple of years. Mom may have felt that Diz was a better role model than Blakey. Meantime Morgan continued to record for Blue Note in the best company and played an important role in Coltrane's "Blue Train" classic. Morgan finally joined Blakey in 1958 after Dizzy's band broke up and continued his early rise to Jazz fame. At this time he was 20 and his style based on Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown was established and Lee's voice was his own. Morgan's life was short and was like a bright comet across the Jazz sky.
Edward Lee Morgan was born in Philadelphia on July 10,1938 and as we all know was shot to death over a domestic dispute with his estranged partner, Helen More, on Feb 19,1972 at Slug's Saloon, a Lower East Side Jazz mecca in New York. Morgan's life was blighted by heroin addiction but in his last years through the methadone program he was managing to stay straight. He had finally formed a regular working band in 1969 and was moving in some new directions when he was cut down at 34. The end of a brilliant Jazz light.
Morgan's recordings beginning with his return to the scene in 1963 after kicking his drug habit at his mother's house in Philly was the best selling hit "The Sidewinder". The success of this boosted both Lee's and Blue Note's fortunes but it also started a trend with Lee's recordings and others that all new albums had to have the obligatory funky tune as the opening track. Alfred Lion, the head of Blue Note, insisted upon this with Lee and many other Blue Note artists, hoping to match the success of "The Sidewinder".......it never happened but the funky track meant that some airplay was guaranteed and perhaps the 'real deal' (the good stuff to follow) might be aired. So the 'Blue Note formula' was born.
Tonight's feature, 'The Procrastinator' does not follow the 'formula' and is a bit of a new venture for Lee Morgan. The album was first issued in 1977 on LP and then put out on the Blue Note 'Connoisseur' series in 1995. It shows Lee in a different light and the band sounds more along the lines of Miles Davis' 'Second Quintet' and is bolstered by the presence of Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock. Bobby Hutcherson's vibes add to the more spacey and open approach to the music and Billy Higgins' drums are more restrained than usual and reflect his Kenny Clarke influence. The tunes are by Shorter(2) and Morgan(4). Morgan's compositions show growth and sophistication and are much more subtle than earlier themes....pehaps influenced by Shorter. The title track is a masterpiece, with an almost baroque feel underlined by a vague melancholy feel until the theme is double-timed before the solos. All in all a unique recording in the large legacy that Morgan left for us to savour.
The Feature is at 11pm or a little after and we'll also hear our final tribute to the great Oscar Peterson as well as some more Carla Bley Big Band, Ornette Coleman from his latest recording, Dave Brubeck and some great Clifford Brown and Max Roach. See you Monday at 9 and bring your ears!
Gavin Walker's The Jazz Show is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online.
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