Lee Morgan

The Best of Lee Morgan

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Curious listeners who encounter Lee Morgan for the first time through this single-disc anthology will come away mightily impressed, even inspired, but they will be hearing only the first part of the story. The album picks up on his teenage whiz kid days circa 1957, then jumps ahead to his renaissance in 1963-1965 as the high priest of hard bop boogaloo. Besides showcasing Morgan's brash, crackling, infinitely expressive trumpet playing, the album does a good job of emphasizing his abundant, still-underrated gifts as a composer -- with "The Sidewinder," of course, but also the strikingly lovely bossa nova "Ceora" and the near standard "Speedball." With its three bonus tracks, "I Remember Clifford," "Cornbread," and especially "Mr. Kenyatta," the CD version adds compelling corroborating evidence of Morgan's originality. The major hang-up, alas, is that the album cuts off the time line at 1965, thus leaving out Morgan's gradual move away from boilerplate hard bop toward modal, progressive explorations that reached an exciting peak on 1970's Live at the Lighthouse. The selections included here will no doubt satisfy those who would want to keep this tremendous talent locked into a single airtight box -- and frankly, it would be difficult to dispute any of the choices on their own terms. But the rest of Morgan's tragically aborted evolution deserves representation on a set like this.

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