LEE MORGAN QUITNET: TAKE TWELVE TAKE TWELVE
Lee Morgan (tp) Clifford Jordan (ts) Barry Harris (p) Bob Cranshaw (b) Louis Hayes (drs)
Raggedy Ann (6:46) (Lee Morgan)
A Waltz for Fran (4:55) (Lee Morgan)
Lee-sure Time (8:27) (Lee Morgan)
Little Spain (7:45) (Clifford Jordan)
Take Twelve (4:55) (Elmo Hope)
Second’s Best (7:08) (Lee Morgan)
These are days of abundance for the trumpet in modern jazz, with both miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie at something like a peak of resurgence and with a whole host of younger men – including the star of this album – now safely past the “promising” stage and well along towards acceptance as seasoned artists.
Thus it may be hard to recall that, as comparatively recently as the early 1950s, the instrument was in the midst of an especially lean period. Fats Navarro had died; Dizzy was trying to make it with a “commercial” group; Miles was battling himself. There was a wealth off young saxophonists, but no new trumpet hopefuls were in sight. Then along came such as Art Farmer, Thad Jones and Clifford Brown. Before his untimely death in an automobile accident in 1956, Brownie in particular reached an exceedingly high level of both performance and popularity, and seemed to have a revitalizing effect on younger trumpeters. Or perhaps it was just that the time was right for a new cycle. IN any event, in the middle and late ‘50s one suddenly could take notice of a wave of impressive young horn men, including such as Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Blue Mitchell, and Lee Morgan. By the ’60s, these players were all established personalities; in addition, Gillespie and Davis had reasserted themselves; and the trumpet was once more in good shape.
Among the first members of this new wave to make a really big splash was Morgan. Perhaps because it was as far back as 1956 when he first joined Dizzy’s big band and immediately landed some feature sots and a good deal of attention, some people look on him now as practically a graybeard. It is true that in terms of experience, both in clubs and on records, Lee is something of a veteran. But when “Take Twelve” was recorded, he was only 24. For when he first sat in Dizzy’s trumpet section, Morgan was just 18!
Lee’s talent belied his age, and he handled his assignment well until that band broke u in January of 1958. The experience gained with Diz was clearly valuable, but it wasn’t until he became part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, in September ’58, that Lee really began to come into his own. Like most young men of his time, he had obviously listened closely to Clifford Brown, and the Gillespie period was clearly influence-crating, but it was also plain that this was a man with a way of his own. His characteristic soaring and fiery flights were tempered with tender ballad statements, demonstrating that his capabilities lay in both hot and sweet directions.
This is Morgan’s first recording as a leader since leaving Blakey in the Summer of 1961. He exhibits both of his playing attitudes; but there is also evidence of new thinking, of a more pensive bent to even his most powerful blowing. Lee would seem to have arrived at one of those points in a man’s artistic life where change, perceptible even if not obvious, takes place.
The four help Morgan to make this quintet are all well known to Jazzland-Riverside listeners. The lyrical piano of Barry Harris and the full-toned tenor of Clifford Jordan have been heard in leading and in supporting roles on both labels. Lou Hayes, of course, is one of the important cogs in the Cannonball Adderley organization. Bassist Bob Cranshaw, who was with Sonny Rollinsfor quite sometime, is currently with Jazzland’s Junior Mance. Instrumentation and orientation here gives more than a suggestion of the Messengers and also of Horace Silver’s group (both Jordan and Hayes played with Horace), but although it’s in the same general are, there are differences.
All but one item of the material explored here are originals coming form within the group (four by Morgan, one by Jordan), with the title tune being the work of pianist and provocative composer Elmo Hope. All six numbers have in common a deceptive simplicity, for each has a definite tendency to grow in interest with each hearing.
Raggedy Ann, the opener, is blues chant, with Hayes and Cranshaw doubling the time. Louis’ locomotive cymbals are especially persuasive as the soloists work against this meter and then, for release of tension, swing into straight 4/4. In the tender, reverent A Waltz for Fran, Morgan’s sweet tone and Jordan’s heart-searching sound are complemented by Harris’ sensitive piano.
Both of Lee’s other numbers are in a minor vein. Lee-sure Time is a blues with a punching theme and strongly emotional blowing by both horns; Second’ Best, a 32-bar structure, is highlighted by Harris’ blithe, subtle solo, with Hayes “tippin’ light” behind him.
The drummer again shows his acknowledged debt to Kenny Clarke in his accompaniment for the soloists on Jordan’s Little Spain, a tuneful line that dips and twists artfully through some pleasing changes. Cranshaw has a deep-toned solo spot here. Hope’s harmonically arresting Take Twelve is full of little surprises. Thus, like most of the writing of this highly individualistic composer, it offers challenges (a great many modern musicians greatly enjoy wrestling with the challenges Elmo provides) that keep the soloists on their toes and draw forth thinking performances from all.
This is, plainly, an album fundamentally to e classed in the ”blowing date” category. It is customary to describe such dates, a little condescendingly even if approvingly, as “unpretentious”. But insofar as that word suggests a pleasant-but-mild outing, I rebel against using it this time. There is too much going on here for that: too much creative tending to business in the solos and in the ‘comping, too much that is attractive and unhackneyed in the writing. Besides, it is definitely an album that can – to return to the theme with which I opened these notes – be used to prove that, because of work like this by Lee Morgan and others, that basic jazz instrument, the trumpet, is once again in good hands.