Lee Morgan ‘The Procrastinator’

Seductive. If it’s not in your library, it should be. Tied with ’Search For the New Land’ as my favorite Lee Morgan album, this session has star power galore: Lee Morgan (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). Carter, Hancock & Shorter were recording ’Nefertiti’ with @milesdavis when Morgan “borrowed” them for this session, so the freebop sensibility of the Second Great Quintet blends seamlessly with Morgan’s advanced hard bop proclivities. Add a generous dose of Hutcherson’s shimmering, percussive vibes and the result is an immersive atmosphere that draws you in from the opening notes of the title track to the final notes of “Soft Touch”. In between, you’ll find a variety of excellence, from the verbosity of “Start Stop” (that Morgan solo is 🔥🔥🔥) to the album highlight “Dear Sir”, a ballad that quests with the spirit of the Second Great Quintet. This album has a long, convoluted history which I’ve detailed in the comments, but for the time being digital ubiquity is at hand, so head over to your favorite streaming platform and immerse yourself in one of Lee Morgan’s finest records. This is a tremendous session @icalledhimmorgan @herbiehancock @wayne.shorter @roncarterbass @musicmattersjazz

Lonnie Smith ‘Think!’

Get yer groove on this Sunday morning with ’Think!’, the latest chapter in @bluenoterecords 80th anniversary celebration. Featuring Lonnie Smith (organ), Lee Morgan (trumpet), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor sax, flute), Melvin Sparks (guitar), Marion Booker, Jr. (drums), Henry (Pucho) Brown (timbales) and the double barrel conga propulsion of Willie Bivins and Noberto Apellaniz, this is an EXCELLENT soul jazz outing. Named for the cover of the Aretha Franklin hit, it’s a mix of Smith originals and a couple of cover tunes all beautifully executed by this fine band. Highlights include Smith’s original “The Call of the Wild” with its patient, slightly eerie, exploratory build to its wild, groovy finish and the opening track, a cover of Hugh Masekela’s “Son of Ice Bag” which—paired with a strong cuppa—will definitely get your blood pumping and head bobbing. Soul jazz isn’t often at the top of my preferred jazz sub-genres but this record is a keeper—great tunes, great playing, and GREAT job on this analog cut by Kevin Gray—this is a really, really terrific sounding record. At about $20 retail, a solid value. I don’t have an original to compare it with, but given many original pressings of Blue Note records from 1968 are either 1) “well-loved” (read: trashed) or 2) “well-cared for” (read: expensive), this newly issued version is recommended without hesitation. This was Smith’s second LP but his first for Blue Note…he’d go on to release quite a few more (including one as recently as last year) and he received the honor of NEA Jazz Master in 2017. More power to you Dr. Lonnie Smith @drlonniesmith @icalledhimmorgan

Jack Wilson ‘Easterly Winds’

Joining the chorus of folks acknowledging Lee Morgan’s birthday today, I thought I’d call out this under-discussed session featuring Morgan in a sideman role. ‘Easterly Winds’ from pianist Jack Wilson is one of those “under the radar” Blue Note gems deserving a spot on your playlist, if not a space on your shelf. Wilson is a melodic, energetic pianist who fronts a killer sextet that includes Lee Morgan (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Garnett Brown (trombone), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). The record opens with the boogaloo dance floor romp “Do It”, a rug-cutter (though not of the cherubic hue @walteragross) to get the blood pumping and feet tapping. Good tune. An even more interesting Wilson original follows entitled “On Children” which has fine solos from Brown and Morgan, and then the “A” side closes with the Johnny Mandel standard “A Time for Love”. The “B” side features two more Wilson originals and then closes with Frank Strozier’s “Frank’s Tune” which features McLean’s best solo, Morgan’s most thoughtful solo, and is my favorite track on the LP. Good stuff. Recorded 22 Sept 1967, released March 1968 as BST 84270. Widely available digitally, and not too difficult to find on vinyl

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers ‘Africaine’

Wayne Shorter makes his Jazz Messengers debut on this Art Blakey session recorded 10 Nov 1959, though this particular album was shelved for over 20 years, eventually seeing release in 1981. Perhaps it was simply a desire to avoid flooding the market with excellent jazz LPs, but this one sits alongside numerous other @bluenoterecords LPs of the 1950s/1960s that were vaulted instead of released. As a result, they inevitably get compared to other albums of the era…records that have multi year head starts in terms of listening, critical analysis and debate. Therefore, these vaulted orphans risk being pre-judged as not quite worthy. After all, if they were any good, why weren’t they released in the first place? A mystery…it’s not an issue of quality. While their eventual release in the late 1970s/early 80s either as Japanese-only titles or as part of the Blue Note LT series was certainly welcome, the relative rarity of the Japan-only titles, and the frankly crap artwork of the LT series didn’t help make them a equal part of the Blue Note conversation. An extra shame in the case of this smokin’ hard bop title ‘Africaine’ which was a bit of a “middle child” recorded in between Blakey’s Jazz Messengers all-time classic ‘Moanin’ and ’The Big Beat’, featuring the debut of Wayne Shorter as composer and Jazz Messenger. Joining @wayne.shorter and Blakey are Lee Morgan (trumpet), Walter Davis Jr. (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass) and Dizzy Reece, here eschewing his usual trumpet and playing congas! The Shorter/Morgan frontline always delivers, and while they’d certainly play more renown dates, this one isn’t to be missed. The good news is that this album is widely available digitally. The bad news is that Blue Note seems hellbent on keeping the vinyl scarce—other than a second-hand copy, the only other place to get it is part of the limited edition Blue Note Review box set. High marks for the pressing though—an ace job on an all-analog cut that sounds fantastic