Record of the Day: Lee Morgan, "Tom Cat"

Record of the Day: Lee Morgan, “Tom Cat”

Lee Morgan
Tom Cat (Cd Blue note 094633776425)

Trumpeter Lee Morgan died young, but still had time to record a large number of records under his name and participate in as many albums as a guest; the average quality of his work is decidedly high and it is often difficult to choose a title among so much abundance. Morgan's record company, Alfred Lion, tried to find every possible opportunity to capture his artist's amazing feats on tape and sometimes found himself with so much material ready that he had to postpone the release of some albums to avoid inflating the market.

One of these albums is “Tom Cat”, made in 1964 but released 16 years later, probably because in this album Morgan did not try to exploit the soul jazz trend that produced his great success “The Sidewinder” and moved within of more orthodox territories from a jazz point of view, with simple themes that clearly refer to the blues and bop tradition. As always Lion spared no expense, and the casting of this album makes an impression for the quality of those who participated, from Jackie Mc Lean (sax) to Curtis Fuller (trombone) who together with the leader whirl splendidly on the rhythm formed by no less than by McCoy Tyner (piano, here in a state of grace), Bob Cranshaw (double bass) and Art Blakey (drums).

A true all-star group that gives life to one of the most incandescent sessions in the Blue Note catalogue, starting from the title track which
moves sinuously on a blues tour masterfully counterpointed by Blakey's hi-hat. Morgan spins at full speed in his solo, giving us unforgettable phrases with shining instrumental virtuosity, with inexhaustible melodic variations that make wonderful use of his instrument with almost insolent determination, brazenly aware of his own skill.

His colleagues are no exception, in particular McLean who in his numerous collaborations with Morgan is always encouraged to give his best through his very personal phrasing, where Parker's lesson is transformed in a unique way thanks also to the deliciously acidic sound of his sax who in themes like “Exotique”, “Twilight Mist” and “Twice Around” never indulges in fuss or pandering phrases but remains in constant melodic tension with the rest of the group.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.