During a brief association with Dizzy Gillespie (1957-58) and a long
association with Art Blakey (1958-65) trumpet prodigy Lee Morgan (1938)
had a chance to develop a fiery, bluesy style that came to be seen as the
quintessence of hard bop. His performance on Candy (november 1957), when he was
still a teenager, was hailed as a major event.
He recorded Indeed (november 1956) when he was just 18 (in a quintet
alto sax player Clarence Sharpe and pianist Horace Silver).
Already a celebrity at 21, he could afford to cut
Here's (february 1960) accompanied by a supergroup with tenor Clifford Jordan,
pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Blakey.
That album contained his first significant compositions (Terrible T,
he had a hit with the lengthy title-track off Sidewinder (december 1963),
one of the manifestos of soul-jazz. The album contained six Morgan originals,
particularly Totem Pole.
Search for the New Land (february 1964) was better, a sort of highbrow
counterpart to the best-seller. Morgan's lighter side (the Sidewinder
side) was overshadowed by three innovative compositions such as
Search for the New Land, Melancholee and Mr Kenyatta,
that took advantage of a stellar combo with tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, guitarist Grant Green, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Billy Higgins.
Morgan had matured as a composer, but his recordings focused on the lighter
side, such as Ceora, off Cornbread (september 1965), and
Ca-Lee-So, off Delightfulee (may 1966), rather than on the
experimental side (influenced by modal improvisation and free jazz).
The latter was best represented by
the eleven-minute title-track of The Gigolo (july 1965)
and the nine-minute title-track of Cornbread (1965), that featured Hancock, Jackie McLean on alto and Hank Mobley on tenor.
Some of his best recordings weren't even released, such as
Infinity (november 1965) with McLean, pianist Larry Willis, Workman and Higgins,
or the eight-minute The Procrastinator (july 1967) with Hancock,
Shorter, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Ron Carter and Higgins.
Morgan was killed in 1972 at the age of 34.
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