Archive for Lee Morgan

I’m Old Fashioned – Curtis Fuller

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on May 15, 2021 by telescoper

Saddened to hear of the death last week of the great Jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller I’ve been thinking of an appropriate track to play. Fuller had a long and distinguished career alongside many great artists which makes it difficult to pick just one track as a tribute, but as so often is the case I found myself gravitating back to the late 1950s which I think is probably my favourite period in Jazz history.

Thus I settled on a track from the studio album Blue Train recorded in 1957 by a sextet led by John Coltrane and featuring Curtis Fuller (trombone) and Lee Morgan (trumpet) with Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones on drums. It’s a superb album which is a must-have for any serious collector of this music. I thought I had already posted a track from this album on here, actually, but apparently I haven’t.

John Coltrane is now an established as one of the leading figures in the development of modern Jazz but this record is a reminder that he achieved recognition somewhat later in his life than many other soloists. At 31, he wasn’t exactly old when this album was recorded in 1957 but he was certainly no newcomer either. Obviously it took him a while to find his voice. By contrast the trumpeter Lee Morgan was, astonishingly, only 19 when this record was made; Curtis Fuller was in his mid-twenties.

Everyone plays beautifully on all the tracks on this album, and the blend of trumpet tenor sax and trombone in the ensemble gives this band a very distinctive sound, but I’ve picked a track on which Curtis Fuller really excels as a soloist. The rest of the tunes being based on the blues, this is actually the only ballad on the album, written by Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer, and called I’m Old Fashioned

R.I.P. Curtis Fuller (1932-2021)

The Sidewinder

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 3, 2015 by telescoper

I don’t really know why it has taken me so long to write a post about this track. After all it is one of the most played pieces of music on my iPod. Better late than never, though, so here goes.

Recorded in New York City in 1963, and released on the Blue Note label a year later, The Sidewinder was the title track of an album that expanded trumpeter Lee Morgan’s place in Jazz from that of a musically respected artist to a higher and broader platform as a hit maker. The tune, an original composition by Morgan, is basically a long-meter blues, with 24 measures to each chorus instead of the usual 12. The chord sequence is close to that of a standard blues, but with an unexpected and highly effective minor chord subsitution at bars 17-18. It’s such a clever composition that it’s no surprise it has become a jazz standard. It even entered Billboard magazine’s top 100 chart for a while, which is unusual for an uncompromising piece of hard bop.

When I first heard the track many moons ago, I expected the intriguing rhythmic figure established during the opening ensembles to give way to a standard 4/4 beat to free up the soloists but it is kept up throughout the piece, showing that these musicians didn’t need to be freed up at all!

Lee Morgan was an amazing trumpeter, but he sometimes had a tendency to over-elaborate. Not here, though. He mixes simple phrases with long runs in a solo that must rank among his absolute best; the repeated B-flat in the last of his three choruses is a particularly fine example of the virtue of keeping it simple. Joe Henderson also delivers a fine and very propulsive solo on tenor saxophone, full of melodic variety and demonstrating his characteristic use of unusual intervals as well as that wonderful leathery sound. To my ears Barry Harris on piano struggles to keep the momentum going until the horns pick up a riff behind him to spur him on. Billy Higgins on drums keeps that complex but infectious beat going in superb style.

But for me the real star of the show is Bob Cranshaw whose funky bass lines in accompaniment demonstrate his rock-solid sense of time ¬†and his solo is one of the grooviest you’ll ever hear from a double-bass.

If this doesn’t rouse you from post New Year torpor then nothing will!