Blue Note 75 for 75: Lee Morgan’s City Lights (1957)

Our third feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Lee Morgan’s third album for Blue Note, the now-classic City Lights.

Featuring what was a strong line-up of mostly up-and-comers at the time (Morgan himself was only 19 when this was recorded) and a fresh batch of original compositions from the pens of Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce (neither of whom were available to record them), City Lights was Morgan’s strongest statement yet as a leader and an album whose already solid reputation has matured with each passing era.

Check out Paul Chamber’s moody arco bowing technique on the intro to the title track, it really evokes the mood of the iconic cover art: a sense of awe and wonder at the spectacle of Times Square in the late ’50′s:

Ray Bryant and George Coleman particularly impress. They made a few more sporadic appearances for the label as sidemen but never caught on as  leaders. Each would have stronger careers for other labels.  My favorite solo for both is on “Kin Folks”:

Stay tuned for more from Bop & Beyond’s Blue Note 75 for 75…

 

Blue Note 75 for 75: Andrew Hill’s Grass Roots (1968)

Our second feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Andrew Hill’s Grass Roots, a more accessible record from the post-bop pianist. Comprised of two separate recording sessions, with different line-ups, the re-released album (on CD) was a composite that offered a fascinating glimpse at two entirely different approaches.

Line-up one, as featured on the title track above: Andrew Hill (p); Booker Ervin (ts); Lee Morgan (tp); Ron Carter (b); Freddie Waits (d).

Line-up two, as featured on “Soul Special” (first version) above: Andrew Hill (p); Frank Mitchell (ts); Woody Shaw (tp); Jimmy Ponder (g); Reginald Workman (b); Idris Muhammad (d).

Five months separate the two recording dates (April 19th & August 5th, 1968) and it is interesting to speculate why Hill and producer Francis Wolff decided to re-cut several tracks (and record some new ones) with an entirely different line-up. Only the Andrew Hill (p); Booker Ervin (ts); Lee Morgan (tp); Ron Carter (b); Freddie Waits (d) tracks made the LP version:

Both line-ups are scorching, tight, and funky, though the addition of Ponder on guitar takes the second line-up deeper into soul jazz and funk, which is a weird area to hear Hill abstract comping in and may indicate why the songs were initially shelved. The first line-up straddles the hard bop/soul jazz line pretty tightly and features exquisite soloing from the always ferocious Booker Ervin. For me personally, in the end, it’s a toss-up and makes for an interesting anomaly in the Andrew Hill discography.

Stay tuned for more from Bop & Beyond’s Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Blue Mitchell’s Step Lightly (1963)

Our first feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Blue Mitchell’s Blue Note debut as a leader, Step Lightly. Here is the lead-off track, “Mamacita,” a song I find highly addictive:

This is a record that is unjustly obscure. Recorded for Blue Note in 1963, it sat on the shelf until 1980, and even then it didn’t receive a proper release, coming out only in Japan. Thankfully, Mosaic included the album on their Blue Mitchell box set, though that has also lapsed out-of-print. However, if you are cunning enough, you can easily scrounge up a copy on-line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The line-up is all heavy hitters: Blue Mitchell on trumpet; Leo Wright on alto sax; Joe Henderson on tenor sax; Herbie Hancock on piano; Gene Taylor on bass; and Roy Brooks on drums. Apparently, Alfred Lion wasn’t entirely pleased with Wright’s alto playing and that contributed to this record not getting released at the time. Listening to it now, it is hard to hear why as all the playing is sharp and funky! This may be my favorite of all of Blue’s Blue Note’s so check it out if you get the chance. The title track is another winner as well:

Stay tuned for more from Bop & Beyond’s Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: An Introduction

Starting today, I will be honoring Blue Note Records’ 75th anniversary with Blue Note 75 for 75, a series of 75 randomly selected Blue Note albums that I will listen to and briefly discuss. I will also occasionally conduct a reader’s poll as to which album I should dig into next. Look for the first post sometime later today.

RIP, Wayne Henderson

Wayne Henderson has passed away. Trombonist for The Jazz Crusaders, a group that was a driving force behind the popularization of soul jazz in the ’70′s. “Freedom Sound” remains one of my all-time favorite jazz compositions:

Read an obituary here: http://www.soultracks.com/wayne-henderson-dies

 

Link

WKCR’s Billy Holiday Birthday Broadcast

WKCR’s Billy Holiday Birthday Broadcast

WKCR is celebrating Billie Holiday with their annual birthday broadcast: 24 hours of Lady Day on-line and on the radio at 89.9FM NY or WKCR.org

A Mary Lou Williams Timeline & Biography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana Public Media’s Night Lights has an excellent radio broadcast you can stream (with an accompanying article) about the life and times of Mary Lou Williams, one of jazz’s most important contributors:

http://indianapublicmedia.org/nightlights/history-mary-lou-williams/

I recently taught a class on Mary Lou myself and wish for her music to be even better known.