Bird Calls, Vol. 2

Frank Morgan

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Bird Calls, Vol. 2 Review

by Alex Henderson

If you want to hear how Frank Morgan sounded during his youth, the first album to purchase is the 1955 gem Introducing Frank Morgan. After that, look for Bird Calls, Vol. 2, a reissue spotlighting Morgan in 1954 and fellow alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce in 1955. The main things that the two bop sessions have in common are the presence of drummer Kenny Clarke and the influence of Charlie Parker -- Morgan and Gryce were both greatly influenced by Bird's playing yet had attractive tones of their own. Morgan was only 21 when the 1954 session was recorded, and the altoist forms a sextet with tenor saxman Walter Benton and pianist Gerald Wiggins as well as three-fourths of the Modern Jazz Quartet's original pre-Connie Kay lineup: Clarke, vibist Milt Jackson, and bassist Percy Heath. When Morgan digs into "Blues Mood," "Skoot," "Strollin'," and two takes of "Sonor," it's clear that as much as Bird influenced him, he was most certainly his own man. Meanwhile, the 1955 recordings with Gryce give the impression that he is backed by a trio consisting of Clarke, pianist Duke Jordan, and bassist Oscar Pettiford. But in fact, Gryce and the trio aren't playing together -- Signal Records recorded the trio and then overdubbed Gryce's alto. That sort of thing was rare for bop sessions in the 1950s, when labels almost always recorded jazz in real time. But as critic Francis Davis points out in the liner notes, it's hard to tell that Gryce's alto was overdubbed and that he was really playing unaccompanied on four selections (including "Embraceable You" and "Sometimes I'm Happy"). Bird Calls, Vol. 2 isn't for the casual listener, but if you're a seasoned bop fanatic, it's well worth hunting for.