Recording Date: Sep 29, 1957
The trumpeter, then just 19, teams up with baritonist Pepper Adams, pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones for a particularly strong set that is highlighted by a lengthy and fiery "Night in Tunisia," "Lover Man" and a rapid rendition of "Just One of Those Things." Morgan plays remarkably well for his age (already ranking just below Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis), making this an essential acquisition
All Music Guide
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Lee Morgan - The Cooker
Lee Morgan, not yet twenty years old at this writing, is here represented for the fifth time as the leader of a Blue Note recording session. His fantastically rapid growth (technically and musically) as witnessed in his previous efforts - BLP 1538, 1541, 1557, and 1575 - along with this one, places him beyond the "upcoming" or "potential" status into the ranks of those whose potential has been realized. Lee stands, right now, as one of the top trumpet players in modern jazz.
As the title states, Lee is a "cooker." He plays hot. His style, relating to the Gillespie-Navarro-Brown school, is strong and vital. There is enthusiasm in his music. A kind of "happy to be playing" feeling that is immediately communicated to the listener.
Born and reared in Philadelphia, Lee began fronting his own combos around the Philly area when he was only fifteen. Later, he sat in on weekly "Workshop" sessions at Music City, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. He spent several weeks with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers before going on the road with the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra, of which he is still an important member.
Lee's constant improvement can be largely attributed to Diz. The maturity that he has acquired from working with a band made up of extremely accomplished musicians, under the direction of a man like Dizzy, cannot be overemphasized. While Dizzy's brilliant musical capabilities are often obscured by his flare for showmanship, this in no way detracts from the admiration that almost all contemporary musicians have for him. Dizzy is still the boss, the master, the teacher, and Lee, perhaps his star pupil.
Pepper Adams, a scholarly looking, strong-toned baritone saxophonist, who placed first in the Down Beat Critic's Poll for "New Star, 1957," makes his initial Blue Note appearance on this record. Born in Highland Park (a suburb of Detroit), Michigan on October 8, 1930, Pepper moved to Rochester, New York when he was five and began listening to people like Fats Waller over the radio when he was in the first or second grade. He lived in Rochester until he was sixteen, picking up the tenor when he was twelve, and digging in particular the big bands of Jimmy Lunceford, Lucky Millinder, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. He played with his high school band and local groups, and collected records by Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Don Byas, Charlie Christian, et al. He moved back to Detroit in 1946 and switched to baritone, then worked his first big-time gig with Lucky Thompson.
After that he played with just about all the young Detroiters who were eventually to make a success in the east (most on this label): Barry Harris, Billy Mitchell, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers, Don Byrd, Doug Watkins, Curtis Fuller, the Jones brothers, and Yusef Lateef. Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, and Wardell Gray were others with whom he worked. Pepper remained in Detroit until early 1956 when Oscar Pettiford got him a gig with the Stan Kenton orchestra. That band broke up six months later in Los Angeles, but Pepper stayed on the coast to work with Dave Pell, Shorty Rogers, etc. He came back east with the Maynard Ferguson big band - quit it in New York and then returned west with Chet Baker. Once again in L.A., Pepper left Baker and came back to New York where he has since remained. He says that Hawk, Harry Carney, and Wardell Gray have been his biggest influences, and names Carney and Cecil Payne as his favorite baritonists.
Bobby Timmons, another (and one of the better) Bud Powell-oriented pianists, was born in Philadelphia on December 19, 1935. His uncle was a piano teacher and he began taking lessons when he was eight. He's been playing professionally since 1952, gigging at first around Philly, primarily with Morgan. He broke into the New York scene in the early part of 1956 with Kenny Dorham and his Jazz Prophets. This was followed by jobs with Sonny Stitt, Cannonball, and Dinah Washington. He is currently a member of Maynard Ferguson's Birdland Dream Band. Bobby lists as his favorite piano players Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, and Red Garland.
Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, who round out the rhythm section, are exceptional performers who have achieved a rather unusual and certainly lofty stature - they are appreciated, highly and equally, by both musicians and fans. Chambers, since he left Detroit, has spent the better part of his working hours with Miles Davis and has gained a respectability as a bass player that seriously rivals the great Oscar Pettiford's. Philly Joe is a strikingly intuitive and inventive drummer who combines power with good taste. He, like Paul, has worked extensively with Miles and those who have caught him in person or on other recordings will support the statement that he is among the three or four best drummers.
Lee's latter three Blue Note offerings have been set within the sparkling context of tunes written, mostly, by the provocative Benny Golson. Herein he reverts back to the format of his first recording, playing in a less "strict" atmosphere and just plain wailing throughout.
"A Night in Tunisia" (Dizzy's tune which has been Lee's showcase vehicle since he joined the Gillespie organization) leads off the set. Lee's solo is easily his best on record. Played with an almost frenetic forcefulness, it has a sharp, biting excitement about it that (as is also true of Pepper's solo) is in keeping with the oriental-mysterious flavor of the piece. Bobby's statement is swift and effective, and Philly Joe drives the group in magnificent fashion.
"Heavy Dipper," by Lee, is (contrary to the title) a light item with a pretty unison theme. Lee, Pepper, Bobby, and Paul each demonstrate their instrumental prowess before Lee and Pepper exchange several sets of fours with Philly, which are followed by a return to the theme.
Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," a favorite of quite a few modern jazz musicians, is played at a fast, driving tempo. Pepper, Lee, and Bobby (in that sequence) solo in an energetic manner that precedes a moving brace of horn and drum exchanges.
The mournful "Lover Man" provokes a pensive mood through exquisite, beautifully constructed statements by Lee, Bobby, Pepper, and Lee again. Both horns echo the old Charlie Parker-Howard McGhee version in the ending.
Lee's "New-Ma" is a minor-keyed opus which, after the theme, features moody, expressive solos by Bobby, Paul, Lee, and Philly.
After listening to this album it will be hard to deny that Lee Morgan is, as they say, "something else." The enthusiasm of youth that is naturally his is now merged with a "pro's" sense of control that should enable him to advance to even greater heights than he has thus far reached.
- Robert Levin (original liner notes)