Dexter Gordon - Manha De Carnaval (1965)
Some of Blue Note’s efforts in the 60s to create a commercially viable “Brazilian bossa nova” sound come off as derivative and obvious, but there are a few LPs where the specific alchemy of musicians, instruments and mood find the sweet spot. This is one of them.
Lee Morgan - Murphy Man (1966)
Lee Part Three: Whenever I need a Lee Morgan infusion—which admittedly is often—this LP is the most frequent go-to. I’ve already put a few tunes from this record on this blog, but this might be the best straight-ahead hard bop tune on the LP…or come to think of it, anywhere.
Lee Morgan - Davisamba (1966)
This recording spent 18 years in the Blue Note vaults. Lucky for jazz listeners, Michael Cuscuna found it, blew the dust off, and released it so that we can experience another LP of Morgan/Mobley magic, underpinned by a rhythm section’s rhythm section of Cedar Walton, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins. Bliss.
Hank Mobley - My Sin (1965)
Another round of exquisite balladeering from the pen of Mobley, with sterling contributions from Freddie Hubbard and Barry Harris.
Lee Morgan - Speed Ball (1965)
From Nat Hentoff’s LP liner notes:
Of similar ebullient value is the quick-stepping, neatly liberating Speed Ball. Dig how relaxed Wayne Shorter is in this setting. It’s impossible not to be. Lee again comes on with that persistently satisfying clarity of articulation, that combination of technique and ideas and feelings which proclaim that everything’s together.
I haven’t mentioned the importance of Billy Higgins to the relaxed, powerful flow of these proceedings. I know a lot of hornmen who look forward to a chance to play with Billy because they know he’ll make it easy for them to do their own thing—deeply easy. Because Billy listens and responds and has, to use an ineffable word, taste. Listen to his breaks here.
Hank Mobley - No More Goodbyes (1967)
An intimately crafted measure of plangent, rainy-day perfection from the ultimate balladeer, with pitch-perfect accompaniment from pianist John Hicks and the all-Blue-Note rhythm section of Bob Cranshaw and Billy Higgins.
Hank Mobley - Don’t Cry, Just Sigh (1967)
It must have been frustrating for Mobley to record so many great sessions in the late 60s that languished in the Blue Note vaults, unreleased. I suppose one can chalk it up to the vagaries of popular music and the direction the commercial winds were blowing at Blue Note in the late 60s (think funky, derivative boogaloo beats).
Either way, this session deserved a far better fate, as evidenced by this medium-tempo swinger. Lee Morgan plays admirably, but it is Mobley—with some telepathic drumming from Billy Higgins and the intuitive comping of pianist Cedar Walton—who constructs one of the best solos from this period in his career.
Lee Morgan - Sneaky Pete (1967)
Paired with Texas tenor David “Fathead” Newman, who ventures outside his R&B roots to demonstrate serious hard bop chops. Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins are instrumental (no pun intended) to the spontaneity and the drive of this session.
Original Japanese LP art above, re-releases below.
Hank Mobley - Straight No Filter (1966)
From Bob Blumenthal’s liner notes:
“Mobley repaid their (Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff’s) confidence by producing sessions that are now viewed as definitive, rarely equalled examples of hard bop. Yet there were always more charismatic or radical musicians around to overshadow his achievements; during the years when he cut the present tracks, when he was at a creative peak, many considered him irrelevant in comparison to the emerging avant-garde. By the end of the 1960s, with rock overwhelming all jazz styles, Mobley had sunk into an obscurity from which he never emerged in his lifetime.”
I’m always tooting Mobley’s horn (pun intended). I figure since he never received the proper respect that he so richly deserved in his lifetime, I’ll humbly pay my respects by sharing selections of his outstanding music with y’all.
By the way, I always tag the musicians who play on every post, and this particular lineup is outta sight.
Donald Byrd - Blackjack (1967)
From Nat Hentoff’s liner notes —
Donald says, “The idea for the rhythm [of Blackjack] came from a performance I’d heard by Joe Williams and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band of Get Out of My Life, Woman. I sort of turned that beat around, and the top part has a light, Monkish type of feeling. You know that dance Monk does when he’s listening to his music? The last two beats of the melodic pattern here go exactly with that dance.”
The feeling is loose and infectiously buoyant. Sonny Red practically talks his story, displaying in the process one of the surest senses of swing in jazz. Donald is characteristically crisp, cohesive, and he too has that human “cry” in his horn. The redoubtable Hank Mobley sustains the aura of powerful ease, as does the incisive Cedar Walton.
Hank Mobley - A Dab of This and That (1967)
“Playing with Cedar Walton on Donald Byrd’s Blackjack and prior to that on Lee Morgan’s Charisma obviously struck Mobley enough to use Walton immediately on his next two record dates. Cedar’s strength, technique, harmonic sophistication, and ability to lay into a groove and build on it were exactly suited to Mobley’s music.
— Michael Cuscuna, from the liner notes for the album, released 17 years after it was recorded and two years before Hank’s death from pneumonia at 55.
Lee Morgan - Cornbread (1965)
This LP is a must-have, not simply because of the lineup, which is astonishing even for the time, but for the fact that it captures all these players in the midst of a collective musical and creative peak.
On this tune, Morgan’s solo literally bursts out of the gate, crackling and building layers of virtuosic groove. Mobley then takes a short but thoroughly breathtaking turn on tenor, and McLean screams out for some with his instantly identifiable sharp tone. Everything is underpinned by Herbie Hancock’s swinging accompaniment (He was deep into his run as 1/3 of Miles Davis’s rhythm section), and the ubiquitous syncopated rhythms of the one and only Billy Higgins. Seminal.
Sonny Clark - Voodoo (1961)
These opening bars, strikingly similar to Grant Green’s It Ain’t Necessarily So recorded two months later, employ Clark’s irresistible chord voicings that get under your skin.
This LP was his last as a leader. He succumbed to a heroin overdose 14 months later.
Bonus: Charlie Rouse makes a rare appearance here outside his regular gig with the Thelonious Monk Quartet.
Lee Morgan - Caramba (1968)
Serious late 60s modal jazz stylings from my favorite hard bop heavy, with a stellar band in tow, including Morgan’s last tenor sideman, Bennie Maupin, who made a name for himself soon after as a member of the Head Hunters.