Lee Morgan - The Gigolo

Lee Morgan
The Gigolo

Released 1965 on Blue Note
Reviewed by dave clarkson, 27/03/2006ce

Yes I Can, No You Can't
The Gigolo
You Go To My Head

Personnel: Lee Morgan (trumpet); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Harold Mabern (piano); Bob Cranshaw (acoustic bass); Billy Higgins (drums). Producer: Alfred Lion. Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on June 25 and July 1, 1965.

A musical enigma, Edward Lee Morgan recorded 25 solo albums and more as a sideman between the age of 18 and 33. Born in Philadelphia on July 10, 1938, he began playing live at the age of 15 after he was exposed to a wide variety of jazz music. Aged 18, he played in Art Blakeys' Jazz Messengers until 1961 and also found time to perform as a sideman on John Coltrane's classic 'Blue Train' album, as well as with Jimmy Smith. He moved to New York City following problems with heroin and recorded with avant-gardist Grachan Moncur on the trombonist's debut 'Evolution', before finding success with his first solo recording, 'the Sidewinder', which became his greatest commercial record. Throughout the 1960's, his compositions were increasingly modal and free-form, stretching the boundaries of hard bop, boogaloo and electrified fusion. Morgan's recorded less at the end of the ‘60s but continued to tour with a regular group that prominently featured saxophonist Bennie Maupin.

'The Gigolo' is a trully unsung album for anyone who may be interested in checking out some classic sixties jazz hard bop music. 'Yes I Can, No You Can't' opens the album with the rhythm section laying down a deep groove. Morgan enters the frame with a swaggering and confident solo. The track takes on a mean and moody feel, more raw and raucous than his previous chickenshack opus, 'The Sidewinder'. 'Trapped' is a bright, straight ahead minor blues which is more urgent than the opening track and has a great feel about it. It is a conventional hard bop track which is reminiscent of Morgan's work with the Jazz Messengers. 'Speedball' is another bop-style blues, but more relaxed, and contains two themes within the song structure. Wayne Shorter plays like a mean mutherfucker on this track and Billy Higgins anchors the whole thing together in a powerful rhythm clinch.

The longest track on the album and the jewel in the crown is the title track. 'The Gigolo' which is a brooding and reflective killer of a track. The resilient bass line and the thunderous kick ass drums underpin the fiery solos from the brass and the overall sound is one of passion and war cry. The title track closely recalls Coltrane‘s 'A Love Supreme' style musical assault by its frenetic runaway train pace. Pianist, Harold Mabern, plays in an evocative and fluent way similar to Coltrane's pianist McCoy Tyner. The track is an absolute masterpiece of compelling block chords and rhythmic tension and worth the price of the disc alone.

'You Go To My Head; which is the only non-original on the album (written by Dizzy Gillespie) is a relatively relaxed closer and a standard jazz ballad.

'The Gigolo' is a jazz masterpiece and an album which deserves the appreciation of an aspiring receptive eclectic beatnik rather than the containment of an old farts jazz crowd which it currently lives within.

On February 19, 1972, Morgan was performing at the New York club 'Slug's' when he was shot and killed by his common-law wife Helen More. Accounts of exactly what happened vary; whether they argued over drugs or Morgan's fidelity remains unknown. Jazz lost a major talent, ending his life at the age of 33. 'The Gigolo' stands as a testament to his legacy.

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