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The Sidewinder

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The Sidewinder _____________________________________________________________________

Lee Morgan
The Sidewinder

Blue Note
CDP 584157

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Joe Henderson - Tenor Sax
Barry Harris - Piano
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums


1. The Sidewinder 10:24
(Lee Morgan)

2. Totem Pole 10:13
(Lee Morgan)

3. Totem Pole (Alternate Take)*
(Lee Morgan)

4. Gary's Notebook 6:03
(Lee Morgan)

5. Boy, What A Night 7:31
(Lee Morgan)

6. Hocus-Pocus 6:21
(Lee Morgan)


Produced by Alfred Lion
Produced for release by Michael Cuscuna

Recording by Rudy Van Gelder
Recording at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood, New Jersey on December 21, 1963

Photos by Francis Wolff
Cover Design by Reid Miles
Digital Transfers: Ron McMaster

*Previously unissued and does not appear on LP configuration

IT SEEMS hard to realize that almost eight years have passed since a precociously gifted eighteen-year-old trumpeter named Lee Morgan made his first startling impact on the jazz scene by joining the brass section of Dizzy Gillespie's big band.

In retrospect, it seems fortunate that Morgan was able to gain this experience before the big band situation deteriorated to the point where Gillespie decided to resume a small combo format. By the time that happened, Lee had well over a year of section work to his credit, not to mention the solo exposure often accorded him by his proud and unselfish boss. Since the dissolution of the orchestra in January of 1958, Lee's remarkable maturity as a solo voice has been reflected in his work with Art Blakey for a couple of years, and more recently in a group with Jimmy Heath at Birdland as well as a variety of other small-group settings.

Part of his time has been spent back home in Philadelphia, but since the summer of 1963 he has been more active again on the New York scene. The present sides mark his return to the studios for Blue Note in a session with a specially assembled and impressively strong personnel.

Of Joe Henderson, Lee observes: "This was the first time I had ever recorded with Joe. I had never even played with him; but I heard the first record date he had done for Blue Note, and when Alfred Lion asked me who I wanted on this date, of course I thought immediately of Joe. I remembered that sound - and he has a kind of different approach. I can hear a lot of influences in him, of course - I can hear Sonny, and Trane; and some Bird, too. But the important thing is, I think he's finding his own identity now."

Of Barry Harris, Lee says: "Barry has been one of my favorite pianists for a long time. I heard him when I went to Detroit with Dizzy's band one time for a concert; that was when I met Barry and Yusef and Curtis Fuller, some of the great Detroit men. Later on, every once in a while when I got a few gigs I'd try to use Barry; so he's familiar with my music to a great extent too.”

He is similarly enthusiastic about Bob Cranshaw: "Bob's one of the best all-around bass players on the scene today. He's got a great big sound, and no matter what kind of music you bring in, he can see what's happening and read it. And he can walk, and he can solo. It's much the same way with Billy Higgins. I used to hear a lot about Billy, but I didn't know who he was; maybe that was when he was located out in Los Angeles. I remember hearing about him when he was with Ornette Coleman's group. Then, through Al Lion, I got on a date with him, and I've come to admire him - he's got a lot of maturity for a young drummer. He never overplays to the point of drowning the horns out, yet you always know he's there." Of the compositions brought in for this occasion - all originals by the leader - it is interesting to note that all five are based on changes that are simple enough to offer a good blowing base, yet sufficiently varied and personal to avoid triteness or monotony.

The title number might best be described as a long-meter blues (24 measures to the chorus). "The tune kind of put me in mind of the sidewinder - you know, the 'bad guy' on television," says Lee. "There's a snake called the sidewinder, but I was thinking of the bad guy." If the character and mood seems a little different from that of the average blues, you can attribute it to the unexpected change at bars 17-18 of each chorus, when a minor chord is introduced. The fascinating rhythm section figure established during the opening ensembles is sustained throughout the solos, giving the performance a deep blue tinge as well as a Latin touch. Lee's solo, fluent and sensitively constructed, never becomes grandstandy and relies at times on essentially simple devices, such as the repeated B Flat in the last of his three choruses. Henderson's solo is rich in melodic variety (note the contrast between the busy opening and simple continuation in his second chorus). Harris' piano picks up in intensity as it goes along, aided on his third chorus by the horns' backing. Cranshaw bears out Lee's complimentary observations in a fine solo that owes part of its success to the continued pulsing of Billy Higgins' percussion figures.

Totem Pole, named for the effect of Lee's alternation with Joe, is a group of six notes they play going into and coming out of the release. The E Flat Minor theme is strengthened by the effective contrast of Latin rhythm on the main passage and a straight 4/4 in the release.

As Lee himself agrees, this track contains some of the best individual blowing in the album. Lee's own personal phrasing and occasional use of half-valve effects are in evidence; as for Joe, he always puts down his instrumental foot where the beat is, never letting you lose track of the rhythmic or harmonic structure. Harris' solo, partly in octaves and later in single-note lines in the Bud Powell tradition, sustains the interest until Lee returns to solo against some intense and exciting rhythmic section work. "I got the idea for the number," says Lee, "after listening to Dizzy down at Birdland. He played the early Duke Ellington tune, The Mooche, a wonderful old piece, and I decided I'd like to do something in that same general form." Of Gary's Notebook, Lee says: "Gary's a friend of mine, and he's real serious - quite an intellectual guy. No matter what he's doing, whether he's riding the subway or just sitting around the house, he's always doodling, or figuring something out - he's a musician too and he's working with the Schillinger system. The tune is a blues, which is a simple form, but there's a lot to play. The line is not too simple, and that's the way Gary is - a basic guy, but kind of deep."

To these comments should be added the observation that this is considerably more than just another blues. It's played as a fast waltz, in the minor mode, with a 16-bar intro leading to 24-bar choruses, and with a series of tricky two-against-three effects by bass drum and bass to launch the solos.

Boy, What A Night is also a blues waltz, but this time with more of a funky feeling and a 12/8 meter, with a very basic character to both melody and changes. "Remember the old Avery Parrish blues After Hours?" says Lee. "You'll notice that during the main figure, the bass and the piano are playing the rhythm out of that. We tried this a lot of different ways - first as a straight blues, then double-up time, then with the three four feeling - until it finally came out the way it is here." On his solo here, it seems to me Lee reflects some of the Gillespie influence in his phrasing and in the ability to string ideas together at considerable length. Note Harris' sly fills in the closing reprise of the theme, and the old-timey blues ending.

Hocus-Pocus is, as Lee comments, "Just a simple tune, a nice easy blowing thing with the standard chorus length. I wanted to get away from straight blues. After I'd written it Barry Harris pointed out that the changes are the same as Mean To Me, except for a slight difference in the channel."

Joe Henderson and Lee are both displayed to advantage in the straight-ahead swinging groove of this performance. Barry, in his choruses, shows not only a wealth of ideas but a sturdy technique, often kept latent but occasionally made more openly evident in a flurry of sixteenth notes. The theme is repeated twice at the end, once to feature Billy Higgins and then with regular ensemble.

Lee is justifiably proud of the way this session turned out. The rhythm section was as stimulating as he expected, but the special pleasure of the occasion was the opportunity to share the front line with Joe Henderson. "Now that I've worked with Joe, I'm eager to get together with him again; he's very efficient in every way. And maybe next time I can get him to do some of the writing too."

That will be something to look forward to; but in the meantime these five buoyant interpretations of Lee Morgan themes offer rewarding evidence of Lee's own development as composer and soloist, and of Joe Henderson's value as a thoroughly able aide.



The classic Blue Note albums which span the mid 1950's to late 1960's were recorded directly on to two-track analog tape. No multitrack recording was used and consequently no mixing was required. Therefore, this CD was made by transferring the one step analog master to digital.
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