Thursday, July 31, 2008
A taste of Candy from Lee Morgan
The great pianist Sonny Clark, heir to Bud Powell, once said that he enjoyed accompanying improvisations as much as performing them himself. Nowhere is this pleasure so evident than on the Lee Morgan date Candy. In fact, Candy is distinguished in a number of respects, not the least of which is the fact that it is Morgan's only album on which he appears as the sole horn at the session. The selection of material is also unusually satisfying, inclusive and original. For fans of Morgan it is likely the ballads, Since I Fell For You and All The Way, that really stand out. The simple grandeur of Morgan's treatment of Since I Fell For You lifts the tune to a romantic plateau few jazzmen have scaled. So thoughtful and honest in its blues, it'll bring you, if not to tears, than to the memory of the last time you cried them. Clark's introduction is absolutely heartbreaking and it sets the tone. All The Way is no less romantic in its perfection. Made famous by Frank Sinatra sometime prior to this recording, Morgan builds this tale of heartfelt commitment into a rhapsody. So profound are the emotions imparted that one cannot escape a sense of urgent beauty in its call to embrace your lover, all the way. The title track, Candy, contains some of Clark's best work in this period and demonstrates that this album really is as much his as it is Morgans. In fact, Clark's storytelling ability has never been so fully on display. Just within the space of this album alone, Clark seems to impart a vast array of human experience and, of course, a heaping amount of the blues. For Clark always puts a little blues, not unlike the aforementioned Powell, on just about everything he plays. The A side concludes with what was at the time a recent composition by the great, and too little recognized composer-saxman, Jimmy Heath, brother of drummer, Albert, and bassist, Percy. The tune, C.T.A. had been recorded a few years earlier by Miles Davis and, according to Davis, the title takes its name from the initials of a young Chinese-American woman Heath was dating at the time. It's a real rouser and clocks in as the most uptempo piece at the session. Ardent fans of Morgan's famed pyrotechnics will not be let down with this one, it is pregnant with the spiritual mysteries of classic bebop. Also included in this set are Irving Berlin's Who Do You Love, I Hope and the evergreen Personality. Both display what are to my ears some of the very finest examples to be heard anywhere of modern jazz trumpet improvisation. Morgan is more than on top of his game, he is on top of the world, climbing higher and taking us with him! The power and control with which he approaches the theme laid out by Berlin is nothing short of astounding. As in the best of the jazz tradition, Morgan takes a relatively obscure work and breathes a new and exciting life into it, resurrecting the creative forces that gave it birth while simultaneously charting a new course. Personality has been for many the stand out track. The wit and humor of a sly, even cryptic, lyricism makes itself known here through contributions from each member of the band (Art Taylor, drums & Doug Watkins, bass.) Taken at a medium tempo there is plenty of room to stretch out, and that room is exploited to the fullest in some of Morgan's most unique phrasing on records. While long valued as a collectors item, because of it's originally small release and limited distribution, Candy is now reissued on both CD and vinyl, audiophile and standard.