Recorded at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California on July 10, 11 & 12, 1970.
Tracks 1-1, 1-4, 1-5, 2-3, 2-4, 3-1 to 3-4: Previously unissued.
This double LP, which was trumpeter Lee Morgan's next-to-last recording, contains four lengthy side-long explorations by the trumpeter's regular quintet of the period (with Bennie Maupin on tenor, flute and bass clarinet, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jymie Merritt and drummer Mickey Roker). The music is very modal-oriented and probably disappointed many of Morgan's longtime fans but he had gotten tired of playing the same hard bop-styled music that he had excelled at during the past decade and was searching for newer sounds. The influence of the avant-garde and early fusion is also felt in spots but the trumpeter's sound was still very much intact and he takes some fiery solos that still sound lively decades later.
All Music Guide
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Shortly after Lee Morgan's death, a few bootleg LP's were issued that were rumored to be out takes from the "Live At The Lighthouse" dates for Blue Note. In 1991, Fresh Sounds records from Spain issued two CD's that contained all of the music from the two bootleg LP's and claimed officially that these tracks were recorded at the "Lighthouse" during Lee's stand in July of 1970. Most collector's took this as gospel. In the summer of 1993, I went into the Blue Note vaults to confirm this rumor, and found out that the Fresh Sounds CD was not from the unissued material still held in the Blue Note vaults. A phone call to Bennie Maupin unraveled the mystery surrounding these bootleg issues.
Lee's band was on a swing out to the west coast. The group performed at the 'Both/And' in San Francisco for two weeks prior to opening in Los Angeles at the 'Lighthouse'. During this stand in San Francisco, a local radio station recorded two sets for broadcast at a later time. It was from this broadcast that these tapes were circulated into the bootleg community. With the mystery solved, BLUE NOTE felt that it was a good time to re-evaluate this band, and the decision was made to assemble as complete as possible a stronger picture of Lee Morgan and his quintet "Live At The Lighthouse". The four tracks that were originally issued have been remixed and eight unissued tracks have been added, including a guest appearence by Jack DeJohnette on "Speedball" and a version of Lee's greatest hit "The Sidewinder."
There are a few flaws in this recording resulting from source tape problems. The piano and bass were combined on one track; the piano level is pre-mixed and therefore not alterable. On the track "Aon" (Disc 3, #1), there is distortion on the drum track for the first :65 seconds (the results of assigning the bass input to the drum track). During the piano solo of "The Sidewinder" (Disc 3, #4), there is a brief tape dropout. The tape runs out as the final chord of "Absolutions" (Disc 1, #2) is dissolving into the crowd noise. But other than these few things, the quality of the recordings are still in good shape.
I first met Lee while I was still a brand new member of the Horace Silver Band that included trumpeter Charles Tolliver who was later replaced by Randy Brecker, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Billy Cobham rounded out the group. The year was 1968 and we were in rehearsals for our only European tour. During those times many of the Blue Note musicians used the famous Lynn Oliver Rehearsal Studios. Lee heard me there with Horace and he asked me to do a recording with him. I was elated and a few weeks later we recorded the album "Caramba" with pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Billy Higgins. Being in the studio with these musicians was a dream that came true. This session is one of my greatest treasures.
After touring and recording with Horace for nearly eighteen months I found myself back in New York with no work. I called Lee and as we were talking he mentioned that his tenor saxophonist George Coleman was leaving the group to form one of his own. He offered me the job. I gladly accepted and we went straight into rehearsals. Lee loved to play and our rehearsals were always fun. His sense of humour was the greatest!!!!! When we did our first jobs around New York, Lee's chops were still healing after an unfortunate altercation that left him with a busted lip and some very loose front teeth. He had to have his teeth wired together with braces to hold them in place. To avoid pinching his lips against the braces he had to change the lip placement on the mouthpiece. The healing process was painful and slow. Many nights his endurance was so low he could only play one set before the chops were finished for the evening. It was during this period that I had the great opportunity to see the real Lee Morgan. He played through the pain to rebuild his lip and week after week he got stronger and more comfortable with his new placement of the horn. A problem that could have ended his career became a source of his greatest strength. It was awesome to see how much courage he had.
We played in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago. The band on this special issue was on its way. It was great!!! Lee and I talked almost everyday. We talked about music, women, drug abuse and his personal battle to overcome a ten year heroin addiction. By the time our tour to California was to begin he and I had become the best of friends. San Francisco was our first stop and for two weeks we played the now defunct club, the Both/And. The following two weeks were spent near Los Angeles in Hermosa Beach at the world famous Lighthouse. We all enjoyed the ocean, air and the very relaxed atmosphere. Lee encouraged me to bring some of my tunes for the band and to my amazement we played and recorded each of them. The feelings of respect and unity in this band were always of the highest caliber. Playing with Harold Mickey and Jymie is another very special treasure of mine. After completing the West Coast tour and the Lighthouse recordings we returned home to New York and shortly thereafter I received a call from Herbie Hancock. He was looking for someone to replace tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, Buster Williams had recommended me.
By this time I had been with Lee for almost two years and even though things were good I felt the need for musical change. I told him about the offer and that I wanted to take the job. He looked me straight in the eye and simply said "you should." It was then that I truly realized how much of a friendship we had. We loved playing together and my leaving the band was uncomfortable for us both. Through our dialogues Lee put me at ease and I left with his warmest blessings. From the very start Lee pushed me towards greater development and as he would say to "burn as though there was no tomorrow." I joined Herbie's new sextet that included trombonist Julien Priester, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart. We recorded and hit the road playing clubs, coffee houses etc... Saxophonist Billy Harper replaced me in Lee's band.
Whenever we returned to New York Lee was the first person I would call. We really hung-out together and functioned as sounding boards for each other. We had many great dinners at the Morgan house. Helen was a great person, a very supportive wife and the most fantastic cook. They were the closest members of my very extended family. During one of my resting periods in New York I got a call from Lee. He was having some serious relationship problems and he needed me to act as his sounding board, as he had done for me on numerous accounts. We talked for three hours and most of the time I was the listener. He told me that he was in the process of weening himself from methadone(a drug used to lessen the effects of heroin withdrawal) and he was quitting smoking. He explained to me that he was going to change all of his addictive habits. I could sense that he was once again fighting to overcome a mountain of painful effects from hard living. We ended our talk and agreed to get together when I came home again.
That was our final conversation. Less than two weeks later I received a call from New York. It was my friend Fundi Bonner with the tragic news surrounding Lee's death. I cried and mourned the loss of a great friend. Due to performance commitments I could not attend the funeral. As I reflect on the man, his music, humanity, passion for life and his love for people I realize that true friendships such as ours are eternal and that they reach beyond the thin veil of death. I'm most fortunate to have had Lee Morgan as a major musical mentor and friend. Twenty five years later this music is being made available to the listening public. I extend my deepest gratitude and thanks to Michael Cuscuna, Bob Belden, David Weiss and Blue Note Records for making it possible. Lee was a musical giant and his work on this project reveals the majesty of a great victorious spirit. Thank you Lee and I'll see you later.
-Bennie Maupin (1995)
The 1960's was a decade that took the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, California in a new direction. Guest groups replaced my Lighthouse All Stars as the main attraction. It was time to hear the likes of Dizzy, "Cannonball", Tjader, Jamal and Oscar, you name them, they were there. Among these great attractions was a bright new trumpet player named Lee Morgan. It was a two week stay which would give Lee's group the opportunity to play the material presented here the first week and record it live at the club the next week. At that time Lee was playing with so much poise and command that it was obvious to everyone that the group would be more than ready to record live.
Lee lifted the band and the listeners every night with his free swinging effortless, inspiring, personal, pixie-like style. He was a young man, already older than his years, thrilled with his talent and the wonders of the world around him and those ahead of him.
This heady atmosphere continued up to and through the recording sessions. The solos became longer, the versions became longer and Lee was one happy bandleader.
In these CD's you hear the results of a project that Blue Note had planned as a two LP set to include all the material recorded, but because of Lee's insistance and the long versions the two LP release contained only four of the numbers recorded, one number per side.
Now I have the opportunity to relive and rehear twelve sets of the most material ever recorded at the Lighthouse by anyone. In my mind you have here the work of a jazz great, silenced before his time, one who easily passes the test of time, proving once again that real art is timeless.
-Howard Rumsey [Howard was the Musical Director at the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, California from 1949 to 1971]