More really is more with new Lee Morgan jazz release — The Know
People often ask my opinion on what a good LP is to begin to get into jazz.
I mean, a lot of folks have absorbed “Kind Of Blue” even if they don’t know it, and “A Love Supreme” might be a bit much for a neophyte, so I often suggest trumpeter Lee Morgan’s 1964 gem, “The Sidewinder.” It’s a mesmerizing, invention-packed Blue Note date where everyone in the band fires on all cylinders, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t care for it.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover a stack of loveable releases from Morgan, who died under tragic circumstances in 1972. The 2016 documentary “I Called Him Morgan” will draw you into his music before breaking your heart, and it’s one of the most acclaimed jazz-themed films in recent memory.
But after years of pre-internet excavation, my preferred Morgan album eventually became “Live at the Lighthouse,” recorded in the summer of 1970 at a fabled club in Hermosa Beach, Calif. The original vinyl configuration included about 70 minutes worth of Morgan and his contemporaries pushing inviting themes further and further out, resulting in edgy and exciting hard bop. It was the last album Morgan would see released during his lifetime.
In 1996, an expanded version appeared over three CDs, and there was no decline in the quality and intensity of the performances. This seemed like the definitive version of “Live at the Lighthouse.” But it wasn’t. It turns out every note that emanated from the Lighthouse stage that July weekend was recorded by Blue Note engineers and, finally, the complete edition of the album will arrive July 30.
This “The Complete Live at the Lighthouse” grows to eight CDs or 12 LPs, and it’s even more thrilling in its upgraded configuration than in previous forms. While some tunes are repeated over the course of three days’ worth of performances, each interpretation reveals a different twist in Morgan’s extroverted playing. The trumpeter’s quintet never lets up, either. Saxophonist Bennie Maupin, who would go on to notoriety with Herbie Hancock shortly thereafter, contributes numerous incendiary solos, and the rhythm section — pianist Harold Mabern, drummer Mickey Roker and bassist Jymie Merritt — signifies now as nothing short of classic.
Often, expanded editions of well-regarded albums consist of alternate takes and false starts that primarily appeal to obscurity-loving completists. Occasionally, though, more really is more. That’s the case with this enthralling collection. What else is waiting to be discovered in those vaults, Blue Note?
More jazz of note in July: City Park Jazz returns, with free performances from Purnell Steen and the Five Points Jazz Ambassadors on July 4, and the El Chapultepec All Stars featuring Tony Black July 25. …Saxophonist-vocalist Camille Thurman-Green teams up with trombonist Stafford Hunter on July 11 at Dazzle, followed by a “Loud Jazz” tribute to guitarist John Scofield on the same stage July 16. … The Peter Sommer Quartet plays Denver’s Nocturne on July 10. … The Winter Park Jazz Festival features Peter White, Elan Trotman’s tribute to Marvin Gaye, Dotsero, Rick Braun and less jazz-associated acts like En Vogue and Bell Biv DeVoe July 17-18 at the Rendezvous Event Center.
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