Lee Morgan, hard bop’s baddest trumpeter, may never quite have topped his iconic 1963 masterpiece ‘The Sidewinder’, but he came pretty damn close with ‘The Gigolo’ from 1965.
Jeff McMillan writes in his outstanding biography ‘Delightfulee, The Life And Music Of Lee Morgan’ (p. 144-146): “…The tune that proved hardest to capture was Morgan’s composition ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. After numerous false starts, the band made it through the head melody to Morgan’s solo in the 22nd (!) take. The trumpeter struggles through an awkward two-chorus solo where his effort to bend and sound slippery undermines both his intonation and phrasing…The band finally wraps up the (June 25th, 1965) session with a complete take, the 49th (!!) of a long, unsuccesful session focused on one tune…”
“…Lion booked Van Gelder’s studio for six days later (July 1st, 1965) so Morgan and his men could record enough material to fill an album. In this second effort, the group produced one of the great recording sessions of Morgan’s career. The trumpeter, especially, was in top form, producing a standout performance of ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. Notable in Morgan’s playing are razor-sharp execution and a brilliance of tone, qualities that were not reliably there for him in the previous session. Clearly, the trumpeter had spent time practicing the material, likely supplemented with technical trumpet exercises. On the July 1st session his chops are strong and sure…”
Lee Morgan - Trumpet Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone Harold Mabern Jr. - Piano Bob Cranshaw - Bass Billy Higgins - Drums
‘Dance Of The Infidels’, by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Feat. Bud Powell
Yesterday I wrote about Shorter’s debut with the Messengers on his first gig abroad, in Paris on November 15th 1959. After that concert, they continued on a swing through Europe, and came full circle with a closing gig back at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on December 18th. For this final performance, promoters planned to feature a number of expatriate musicians in concert with the Messengers, including Bud Powell, who’d set up residence on the Left Bank the previous May.
Michelle Mercer writes: “…Paudras (Powell’s patron and friend in Paris, often mentioned on this blog) invited Bud to the Messengers show that night, unaware that his friend was actually already on the bill. In the middle of the show, Walt Davis, the Messengers’ pianist, stepped up to the mike and asked Bud to come on stage. Bud wasn’t exactly eager to play. He sank down into his chair and tried in vain to use his trademark beret and overcoat for camouflage, but his fans picked him out right away. The audience caught Bud on a good night. With concentration, he shunned inspiration and played straight, giving a crowd pleasing performance…”
“…After the concert, Shorter went to his hotel room. He had been writing for a couple of hours when he heard a knock on the door at around 3 a.m. There was Bud. He walked into the room, sat in a chair, and looked over at Wayne’s horn, which was out of its case on his bed. “Play me something”, he said, in his mild child’s voice. Wayne hesitated. He didn’t know what to play. When he picked up his horn, he reflexively set in on one of the tunes they’d covered earlier that night, ‘Dance Of The Infidels’. After he played, Bud thanked him, stood up, and walked to the door. He turned around and stared. “Are you all right?” Wayne asked. “Uh-huh, it’s all right”, Bud mumbled in response…”.
“…Years later, Wayne listened repeatedly to the show’s live recording, ‘Paris Jam Session’. “Maybe he must have heard something with me that he felt in his inner being?…”
What might Bud Powell have heard in Wayne that night in 1959?
“…Bud set out boldly on ‘Dance Of The Infidels’ with an inventive solo. He walked the tightrope for a few bars then fell back on repetition like a net. When Wayne took the lead solo, Bud must have noticed that Wayne never repeated himself, not a single riff. For Wayne, repetition was stagnation. There was urgency in Shorter’s playing that night, an inner logic to his solos, but a mercurial aspect as well. Wayne blew back at Blakey’s hi-hat jabs like they were in the boxing ring. The seeds of Wayne’s style and his initiation as a composer were there. Maybe Bud heard that, Wayne pushing toward the future with music that could only move forward…”
Lee Morgan - Trumpet Barney Wilen - Alto Saxophone (guest appearance) Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone Bud Powell - Piano (guest appearance) Jymie Merritt - Bass Art Blakey - Drums
‘Close Your Eyes’, by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Michelle Mercer writes in her Wayne Shorter biography ‘Footprints’, page 74/75: ‘…On November 14th, 1959, just four days after Wayne’s first recording session with the Messengers, the band went to Paris. It was Wayne’s first European tour, and his first trip abroad. The Messengers flew over in a Stratocruiser, occupying the plane’s coctail lounge in the bubble space above the main cabin. The ten hour flight flew by for the band as they drank liberal amounts of cognac and work out some tunes… It was a good time to be a Jazz Messenger in Paris. A year before, the group had a triumphal premiere at the Olympia theater, popularizing the group’s soulful brand of hard bop. Though the French maintained a preference for decades-old Lester Young-style balladry (a style near their native chanson), bop had become the default soundtrack for younger Parisians…”
In this rare video we see Wayne Shorter making his debut with the Messengers, on their opening gig at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on November 15th, 1959.
Lee Morgan - Trumpet Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone Jymie Merritt - Bass Walter Davis - Piano Art Blakey - Drums
Rare footage of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, live in Tokyo, 1961. We see Bobby Timmons on piano, Jimmy Merrit on bass, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone and of course Art Blakey on drums.
It’s rare to see Lee Morgan on film (he was 23 at the time), as he was seldom captured by movie or TV cameras during his short life (he was regrettably killed in 1972, at the early age of 33. I will talk about his death in a later post.). It is also interesting to see a young Wayne Shorter in his pre-Miles stage and the talented pianist Bobby Timmons, whose celebrated composition ‘Moanin’ is performed here.
They’re all accompanied by the Japanese ‘Sharps And Flats Big Band’.