Originally recorded on August 25, 1957 at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. All transfers from analog tape to digital were made at 24-bit resolution. Liner photographs © Mosaic Images.
Originally issued in 1958 as BLP 1575.
Benny Golson's writing for this date uplifts it beyond most of the jam session sets of the period. Trumpeter Lee Morgan (then 19) is in excellent form, holding his own with his impressive sidemen (trombonist Curtis Fuller, George Coleman on tenor and alto, pianist Ray Bryant, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor). Highlights include "City Lights," "You're Mine You" and "Just By Myself." This fine session has been reissued as part of Lee Morgan's four-CD Mosaic box set.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Lee Morgan - City Lights
A few months ago, sitting with John "Dizzy" Gillespie in a booth at Birdland after his band had completed a set, I commented on the remarkable performance that had just been delivered by the 19-year-old Lee Morgan in the main solo role on "Night in Tunisia," a Gillespie composition that used to feature its composer exclusively.
"Yes," said Diz, "it sure scares you, seeing kids like that coming up so fast. But it's good to see it happen." Then he mused: "People copy other musicians nowadays; they don't all copy me. I don't mind that. I remember back to the time when I was listening to Roy Eldridge, when he was the cat everyone listened to. You expect these things to happen; you can't be the only influence forever."
These reflections bring into clearer focus the process by which a teenaged musician like Lee Morgan, already an accepted big-timer in modern jazz with several successful albums to his credit, can evolve out of the Gillespie idiom and may in turn, before very long, find younger musicians developing their own new styles out of a careful study of Lee.
In the course of pursuing his parallel careers in 1956-57 as a sideman with Gillespie and bandleader on Blue Note, Lee has done a great deal more than use this latter arm of his work as a mere stepping stone to personal glory. From the beginning he has used his role as leader to help bring to prominence a number of other youngsters who had previously been strangers to records. On BLP 1538, he offered a showcase to the alto saxophonist Clarence Sharpe; on 1541 another alto star, Kenny Rodgers, made an impressive appearance. The present set introduces George Coleman, of whom I'll discuss more in a moment. And throughout these albums there has been the resourceful and sensitive writing of such composer arrangers as Benny Golson (one of Lee's colleagues in the Gillespie band) and Owen Marshall.
The instrumentation on this new release shows a change from that employed on Lee's previous LPs, which backed him with one or two saxophones. This time another brass soloist is introduced in Curtis Fuller, the amazing 22-year-old Detroiter already introduced to Blue Noters via one side of Bud Powell's last release (1571) and two sessions of his own (1567 and 1572).
The third horn, George Coleman, is a newcomer whom Lee and Benny Golson heard in Chicago a while ago. Born in Memphis, Tenn. on March 8, 1935, Coleman studied privately with a local pianist-arranger. Like so many of today's refugee jazzmen, he paid his dues in rhythm and blues. After traveling with B. B. King and several others of that ilk, he gigged in Chicago with Ira Sullivan, John Gilmore, and Bill Lee, worked with Johnny Griffin at the Blue Flame, and did jam session dates for Joe Segal, Chicago correspondent for Metronome. While in New York he played with Kenny Burrell at Birdland. George names Charlie Parker as his idol and reserves other seats at his table of honor for Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, and Benny Golson. "City Lights," which opens this set, starts with bowed bass effects and voiced horns in a colorful introduction that tries, Benny Golson says, to simulate the glitter of "a crowded city street with all its wondrous brightness - perhaps Broadway." The construction of the composition, as is occasionally the case with Benny's works, is a little unusual. Based on an A-B-A format, it is 24 measures long and begins with four bars in F, though basically it is in G. The bridge is just the B-flat "I Got Rhythm" sequence, modulating back to F and then to G.
George Coleman comes on like a bullet with the opening solo, a tenor excursion that starts with a series of short phrases dangling from triplets and proceeds to pick up intensity with a series of finely-balanced statements, some based mainly on eighth notes and others expressively explosive in longer note terms. Curtis Fuller then takes over while Art Taylor drives the rhythm section implacably. After an exuberant display by Lee, the spotlight turns to Ray Bryant, the 25-year-old pianist who was mainly active in his native Philadelphia until about a year ago, when he became Carmen McRae's accompanist. Ray's remarkable articulation, once described by Art Blakey as sounding "somewhere between a guitar and a harpsichord," is heard to advantage here. An arco bass solo in the unique Chambers manner is followed by trumpet-and-drums fours and a return to the ensemble.
"Tempo de Waltz" was once known as "Waltz Fantasy." Says Benny: "I wrote it in 1947, during my first year in college. There were three sections: in the first was the waltz theme, which I used on this date; next came an abstract, 'free-form' section with no set theme and a series of tempo changes; and the last section went back to the waltz theme. I was encouraged by one of the violin instructors to finish this composition. At that time I hadn't anticipated using the waltz theme as a jazz composition."
Though the quality of the solos, the timbre of the ensembles, and the overall feeling must be said to qualify as jazz, this theme is not jazz per se; its quarter-note emphasis in the main phrases, and more particularly such devices as the hesitation before the last note played by Lee in the second measure of the introduction, have much of the traditional Strauss waltz flavor. It is a topic of constant debate among musicians nowadays that the waltz is making a firm place for itself in jazz, where a couple of years ago it had only a slender foothold as an occasional novelty.
The solos are by Curtis Fuller, Lee, George Coleman on alto (with a somewhat Benny Carterish tone), Ray Bryant, and a puck-ishly pizzicato Paul.
"You're Mine You" brings to mind a statement made by its composer, Johnny Green, in his recent "Blindfold Test" for Down Beat He said, in effect: "I want the soloist to state the theme before playing his variations; and when he plays them, he should be capable of improving on what I wrote, otherwise he has no business varying it." This corresponds exactly with what happens here. Except for Ray's 16 measures in the third chorus, this is Lee all the way, and the respect he shows for the tune, both in outlining its melody and in improvising on its changes, convinces me that Johnny Green would be not merely satisfied but fascinated to hear what happens.
"Just By Myself" is explained by Benny as "a 36-bar chorus, each half-chorus containing 1 8 bars. This should really be a 32-bar composition, but actually, two extra bars come at the beginning of each 16. It is the direct opposite of a tag and might very well be called a 32-bar composition with two two-bar 'reverse tags.' The first eight bars in this tune gave me a feeling of complete loneliness and desolation; consequently I arrived at the title 'Just By Myself.'"
Lee swashbuckles his way through a solo that shows his ever-developing sense of phrasing and continuity; Coleman's tenor, which has something of Rollins in its hard, driving sound, comes next, followed by some fleet work from Curtis Fuller, solos by Bryant and Chambers (plucked), and a reprise of the theme to remind you how fast the nine minutes have gone by.
"Kin Folks." composed by Gigi and arranged by Benny, is a blues, and a down-home funky one at that. "Some of Gigi's relatives, including his mother, came to New York to visit him. As the time neared for their departure, he became very melancholy. As a result, that morning, at about 5:30 a.m., he sat in a restaurant over a cup of coffee and began to sketch a melody on a napkin. If you listen closely you can feel the effects of his melancholy. I tried to set up on introduction and a supplementary chorus after the opening theme that would keep the same flavor throughout. The stop-time was also Gigi's idea."
This is one of those B-flat blues that goes to a G 7th on the eighth bar. The stop-time effect comes on the tenth bar of the theme, and is used again for each of the first eight measures of Lee's initial solo chorus. You'll notice some effectively placed use of half-valve effects in Lee's splendid solo here. George Coleman switches back to alto for a fine contribution; Chambers varies the rhythm occasionally with a dotted-eighth-sixteenth effect; trombone, piano, and pizzicato bass in turn have their chance to wail the blues. You have to divide the credit between Benny Golson, who set up the voicing and routine for this theme; Gigi Gryce, who originated it; the sidemen, whose value has been made abundantly clear throughout all the performances on this LP; and Lee Morgan, the amazing young man who must wait many more months for his twentieth birthday, but who will wait for nothing and nobody to prove that he is among the greatest young talents in jazz today.
- Leonard Feather (original liner notes)