Saturday, January 9, 2010
Lee MORGAN - The Rajah 1966
First off, do not hesitate to own this CD, if you can find it (and please don't pay those jerk-crooks the $42 they're asking). Though much of this material was never meant for issue, we're most lucky to have it.
At the time of this session, Lee was recovering from, well, drugs. His chops were in fact not "hot"; he is off, a little weak, and he plays cautiously, with none of the daring and balls we associate with him. BUT this is LEE--still with soul and that gorgeous tone, and notes that still spit and crackle somewhat.
The stars here are Hank and Cedar--each of their solos are the real "gems" of this date; they're right on the money and they keep you intrigued.
And NO, we don't need this issued in the over-hyped RVG series--the audio mastering is just fine here--beautiful, in fact. (A word about the RVG series: The Blue Note CD/DVD combo PERFECT TAKES features samples from the RVG series, as well as an interview with RVG himself. All do respect to the great Rudy, while the audio of his RVG remasters is very good, to my ears they just don't sound as smooth as the audio of the Japanese remasters--nothing on earth rivals the Japanese Blue Note CDs. My motto has become JUST BUY JAPANESE, which now can be found for $14.29 on Amazon. Let's hope the meticulous Japanese--not domestic RVG--reissue THE RAJAH. I must emphasize, however, if you buy any domestic RVGs at all, get the two volumes of Thelonious Monk. These are very early, pre-RVG Blue Notes recorded by Doug Hawkins at WOR studios on acetate discs, not tape. Rudy applied a process by which the acetate surface noise is now all but gone, and he brought out much detail and nuance--these Monk RVGs are really so incredible that previous issues are now simply obsolete.)
If you listen closely to "A Pilgrim's Funny Farm" (does Michael Cuscuna really think we're supposed to believe Lee and associates would title a tune in that way?!) you'll hear this was meant as a sound check for Rudy. You hear the levels, particularly of Billy Higgin's drums, going up and down throughout this 13 minute take. And by the end of the take, it is apparent that Rudy never even got to Paul Chambers' bass, which is mixed rather way low and sounds boxy and without definition throughout the CD (I'd guess Rudy was at the experimental stages of working with those confounded bass pickups--yikes, P.C. through a pickup...). The poor bass sound I guess makes this session prime for an RVG overhaul after all. Well, OK, then--mess with what needs messin' with, but don't fix classics what ain't broken. But regardless of "Pilgrim's..." being a sound check (the real reason it was never previously issued) the players were masterful improvisors, the magic happened. And years later Cuscuna had the ears to hear that and the passion to issue the session.
Make no mistake--this CD will grow on you. After almost 20 years, I still listen to it. It's a great sequencing of originals--straight ahead, funky-latinish...--and standards of the day. I'll bet you like Duke Pearson's "Is That So" best.
By Mike DiMartino.
This long-lost Lee Morgan session was not released for the first time until it was discovered in the Blue Note vaults by Michael Cuscuna in 1984; it has still not been reissued on CD. Originals by Cal Massey, Duke Pearson ("Is That So") and Walter Davis, in addition to a couple of surprising pop tunes ("What Not My Love" and "Once in My Lifetime") and Morgan's title cut, are well-played by the quintet (which includes the trumpeter/leader, Hank Mobley on tenor, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Billy Higgins). Much of the music is reminiscent of The Jazz Messengers and that may have been the reason that it was lost in the shuffle for Morgan was soon investigating modal-oriented tunes. Despite its neglect, this is a fine session that Lee Morgan and hard bop fans will want.
Scott Yanow, All Music Guide.
Paul Chambers- Bass
Lee Morgan- Trumpet
Hank Mobley- Tenor Sax
Cedar Walton- Piano
Billy Higgins- Drums
01. Pilgrim's Funny Farm (13:36)
02. Rajah (9:11)
03. Is That So? (5:18)
04. Davisamba (6:46)
05. What Now, My Love? (5:22)
06. Once in My Lifetime (5:47)