Influence: Lee Morgan

I’ll have to be honest with you.   The first time that I heard Lee on record (I believe that it was an Art Blakey record), I didn’t really dig him.   I thought that he overblew and when I saw a video of him I found his fingering technique to be out of alignment with what I had been taught, so I thought that it was wrong.  Then I bought Night of the Cookers…that changed everything.  I then started to embrace his unique, physically aggressive style of playing.  Up to that point I realized that I was comparing everything that Lee played to everything that I had heard of Freddie Hubbard.  When I got that record, I really started to appreciate the differences in their playing.  That’s when I started to cop as many Lee recordings as a leader and a sideman as I can.  He’s another one of those players whose tone can’t truly be contained on a record.  He was what I would’ve called a child prodigy.  Just check out his work on Blue Train.  He was sooo young on that one.  I really love his playing on Drums Around the Corner (Art Blakey), Night Dreamer (Wayne Shorter), Standards (Lee Morgan), Live at the Lighthouse (Lee Morgan), Expoobident (Lee Morgan),  too many to name…

lee morgan

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3 Responses to “Influence: Lee Morgan”

  1. Hey Jason,

    It’s interesting to me that you didn’t come around to Lee Morgan until later – one of the first jazz records I ever bought was Art Blakey’s “Moanin’,” and I was hooked on Lee from the opening bars of his solo. His bracing and soulful sound got me first, but what I’ve really come to appreciate about his playing are the little internal melodies in the lines he constucts. Also, he’s a musician whose youthful playing I actually find much more exciting than his later work – I think all those years of over blowing (and drug use) may have been rough on his chops.

    Anyway, great blog. Looking forward to that theory book!

  2. Authentic words, some truthful words man. Made my day.

  3. Though there are particular solos of his that speak to me, I’ve never entirely warmed up to Morgan. He has always seemed to me to be one of the very first self-conscious, “paint by number” bop players, therein marking a turning point in the style from a living one to a dead one, an organic one to a self-conscious one. Of course, this was inevitable, and it’s not fair to pin it on any one person, or even just a few people; I think he was, however, one of the earliest of these sorts of bop players to attain the place in the pantheon that he currently holds. That’s what I find really interesting, and frankly, a bit puzzling also. The process of stylistic ossification is generally a gradual one, and with Morgan, I’ve always sensed a sudden lurch forward that was incongruous with the rate at which it crept along both before and after him. Those types of players don’t typically end up being counted among the “greats;” that’s a label we typically (rightly or wrongly) reserve for more stylistically innovative players. Morgan is an anomaly in this way, at least in my mind, which I’ve always found curious. His brilliance is not entirely lost on me, I just have trouble putting him on the pedestal he so often occupies.

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