Lee Morgan – The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (from 1970)
(Blue Note. 8 CDs or 12 LPS. Album Review by Olie Brice)
Lee Morgan’s Live at the Lighthouse was already a classic album, in its original double LP format and then the longer 3 CD set released in the 1990’s. This 8 CD box of all the music the band played over 12 sets is an absolute joy, and in a year where none of us have heard enough live jazz the chance to revel in this great band stretching out over a weekend shouldn’t be missed.
Morgan had assembled a great band for his July 1970 residency at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California. Bennie Maupin plays wonderful tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute and contributes several compositions. He shares Morgan’s mastery of the blues and the Jazz tradition, but you can also hear him pushing forwards, his playing showing the influence of Wayne Shorter and free jazz – in fact he would join Herbie Hancock’s new band Mwandishi immediately after this engagement. Harold Mabern was a first call New York pianist, working with the likes of Sonny Rollins and Betty Carter. Bassist Jymie Merritt was a real innovator – the first bassist of note to use an electric upright bass, and rhythmically groundbreaking, with an approach to phrase lengths that influenced Dave Holland, among others. Mickey Roker was a wonderful drummer, deeply swinging and perfectly suited to the band. Jack DeJohnette, in town with Miles Davis, sits in for one tune, a burning take on ‘Speedball’.
This band and Morgan’s last (with Billy Harper and Freddie Waits replacing Maupin and Roker, can we have a box set of them live please?) show Morgan breaking new ground from his famous hits such as the Sidewinder and playing the best music of his career. He was branching out creatively and politically, involved in fundraising for the Black Panther Defense Fund and playing a live soundtrack for a documentary on Angela Davis. His tragic death at the age of 33 cut short a musical career that was far from finished developing. I recommend the heartbreaking but brilliant documentary “I called him Morgan” for the context of his last months and death.
The box set has been put together with real care and attention. The remastered sound is superb, and the liner-notes are extensive and informative, including interviews with the surviving musicians. Highly recommended.
Categories: Album review