These "City Lights" Shine
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 09/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For years the only Lee Morgan 1950s Blue Note session available as a single CD domestically has been "Candy" (see my review), but now that has changed with the recent reissue of "The Cooker" (see my review) and now "City Lights" in the RVG series. (Of course all of Lee Morgan's 1950s sessions as a leader were released in the 90s on a now out-of-print Mosaic set.) Recorded less than three months earlier than the aforementioned "Candy" on August 25, 1957, "City Lights" features a powerhouse blowing-date sextet of Lee on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, George Coleman (making his jazz debut in a rare BN appearance) on both alto and tenor saxes, Ray Bryant on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums. This album also features the arranging talents of Benny Golson, who additionally contributed three of its compositions. For years, "City Lights" has been among the most collectable of Blue Note LPs -- it does feature one of the best early covers and is his first stereo effort -- but it sat in far too many picture frames on hipster walls than it did on turntables. Now with this CD reissue, it can be enjoyed once more for its music."
More "Ceora" than "Sidewinder"
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 02/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album may not enjoy the same status as Charlie Chaplin's revered movie of the same title, but it's a session that evokes similar feelings. Like the beloved Tramp, Lee Morgan wins our respect with a performance of warmth and dignity, grace and beauty, sprinkled with moments of gentle humor. His playing on this session anticipates, more than do his immediately subsequent recordings, the composer of the sublimely poetic "Ceora" ("Cornbread," '65).
Also credit Benny Golson, who provided three of the five tunes and the arrangements for the sextet on this date. Beginning with "Lee Morgan Sextet" (Dec, '56) to "City Lights" (Aug, '57), Golson supplied four consecutive recordings' worth of material for the developing session leader--compositions and textures that would showcase the young artist while lending form and focus to his creative energies. After "City Lights," Morgan would continue his prolific recording output but increasingly shoulder the burden--as one of only two horns on "The Cooker" (Sept, '57) and the sole horn on "Candy" (Nov, '57). As much latitude as the gifted trumpeter is given on these last two dates, the formal constraints of "City Lights" prove no less rewarding--if anything, they serve as a luminous foil, setting off the artist's inventions and magnifying his unique talent.
The opening title track sounds like programmatic music for a movie before rapidly developing into a flag-waver for the leader. A mysterious two-note figure bowed by Chambers' bass complemented by Ray Bryant's Twilight Zone tick-tock motif leads to the 24-bar chorus unfolding with a rush, and suddenly George Coleman's tenor sax hits the ground running, the entire scene completed in a head-spinning thirty seconds! Although Coleman's is an auspicious entrance on his first jazz recording, it merely increases the stakes for Morgan, whose trumpet solo crackles with menacing fire, moving to the upper register and going an extra chorus.
Morgan's solo on the lovely, rarely-played ballad "You're Mine You" seems fully capable of standing on its own, especially since Van Gelder's mixing does little to flatter Golson's subtle voicings. The program regains its stride with Golson's "Just By Myself," a straightahead 36-bar medium-tempo piece featuring an extended, beautifully-shaped Morgan serenade. The closer, Gigi Gryce's "Kin Folks," is a lazy-tempo Bb blues that proves a perfect playing field for all soloists--but especially the leader, who squeezes his valves, makes the notes talk, and leaves us with some unmistakable Morgan "attitude.""
John Lester | Vila Velha, Espírito Santo Brazil | 09/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Outro dia, enquanto assistia ao grande ganhador do Oscar de 1957, A Ponte Sobre o Rio Kwai, com Alec Guinness, eu pensava: onde encontrar um ambiente hard bop despretensioso, onde excelentes arranjos transformam singelas composições em deliciosas iguarias? Onde encontrar uma seção rítmica capaz de manter a alma adequadamente aquecida e o cérebro em constante e lubrificado funcionamento? Devemos procurar alguma célebre gravação aclamada pela crítica ou algum festejado príncipe absoluto do jazz?
Não, nada disso. Basta ouvir o esquecido disco City Lights, gravado em 1957 pelo trompetista Lee Morgan. Do alto de seus 18 anos de idade, Morgan convence basicamente por três motivos: excelentes arranjos de Benny Golson, perfeição da seção rítmica - com Ray Bryant (p), Paul Chambers (b) e Art Taylor (d) - e presença brilhante de Curtis Fuller (tb) e George Coleman, o grande tenorista que, para nossa feliz surpresa, mostra toda sua habilidade também no sax alto em duas faixas.
Aliado a tudo isso Morgan comparece com sua sonoridade cheia, macia e veloz. Distante da esganiçada genialidade de Gillespie e da sonolenta proposta de Miles, Morgan mostra que pode e sabe tocar o melhor trompete do jazz, sem artimanhas ou malabarismos."