Lee Morgan, Expoobident

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews


Lee Morgan

This is the only recording of a crackerjack hard-bop sextet in full flower. It encompasses two sessions from February and October of 1960, when pianist Wynton Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers were on loan from Miles Davis's marvelous quintet, and drummer Art Blakey was paying Morgan back for his longtime (and then-ongoing) membership in Blakey's rousing Jazz Messengers. A pair of criminally underrated players and composers, saxophonist Clifford Jordan and pianist Eddie Higgins, complete the ensemble. All the hallmarks of quintessential hard-bop — plush, well-rounded unison head arrangements, deftly tagged and staggered phrasings, and razor-sharp solos over a boisterous rhythm section — are accorded their full measure, especially on Wayne Shorter's “Fire,” Jordan's “The Hearing,” and the title track by Higgins. The trumpeter Morgan is appropriately renowned as a funky amalgam of Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, but that underestimates his poignant balladry, showcased here on a gorgeous, muscular, extended rendition of the standard, “Easy Living.”

A hard-bop sextet at the height of their powers.

What really elevates Expoobident, however, is its consistency. There's not a bad song to be found here, including a peppy take on “Just in Time” with Morgan muting his horn, and crisp solos from Morgan and Higgins on Jordan's second stolid tune of the collection, “Lost and Found.” Nor do the outtakes besmirch the quality control, varying from the originally chosen versions only in who steps forward a little more memorably: The sublime architecture of Morgan's solo is a particular highlight of the first “Fire,” Blakey's stickwork stands out on the second “Fire.” It's a win-win proposition, every track.