Marvellous if not essential and classic session. (This time
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 02/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't make the mistake Blue Note apparently did when it counted this Tom Cat dead before it had even realized one of its lives. As the previous reviewer has suggested, the small recording company apparently held the recording back because the absence of a trendy 8th-note-feel rock beat à la "Sidewinder" made it a financially risky proposition in the 1964 marketplace. Seventeen years later, corporate giant EMI obviously saw differently and released "Tom Cat" from the vaults, its most recent incarnation being this 2006 RVG edition.
Perhaps the difference is Art Blakey, but this is a tight and flowing ensemble with outstanding but unforced solos by all hands--and Van Gelder's remaster represents one of his more judicious mixes, keeping the rhythm section as well as the arrangements in agreeable balance with the solo work. Overall, it's a notch above "The Gigolo" and, at the very least, comparable with "The Sidewinder."
The title tune is a hip version of "Alley Cat Song" or Mancini's Theme from the "Pink Panther," with 2-beat, lower-octave prowling in the piano alternating with straightahead swing on a Bb blues during each of the solos. It's a perfect vehicle for Morgan to indulge himself (but not at our expense) in all of his tricks, mannerisms, and cute devices. He literally IS the Tom Cat personified in music. Wisely, the ensuing soloists don't try to follow his act but provide equally expressive and appropriate solos. "Exotique" is a triple-meter, simpler version of "The Gigolo," with more flowing, less strained solo and ensemble work.
"Twice Around" is a fast version of Bobby Timmons' "Work Song," permiting Morgan to drop the poses of the Tom Cat and play plain bad bop trumpet with the kind of risk and command that remind you why he was heir apparent to Clifford Brown. Tyner's "Twilight Mist" is almost as lovely a ballad as his "You Taught My Heart to Sing," and Morgan does it full justice. "Riggarmortes" features another lively Morgan solo, just slightly less fresh and bracing than the one on "Twice Around."
My expectations of this disc were not especially high--I expected to be worn down somewhat by Bu's cymbals and McCoy's pounding as well as tested by McClean's acid sour tone and Fuller's predictable, "not-close-enough-to-J.J.'s" licks. To the contrary, this one holds up as well as any Morgan-led session between "Candy" (1957) and "Cornbread" (1965). It's essential for any Morgan completist and probably deserves a place in any collector's top five Morgan-led recording dates."
On the Prowl
Jack Baker | LeRoy,IL | 02/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've enjoyed Lee Morgan's work on other recordings, such as Hank Mobley's No Room for Squares, Wayne Shorter's Night Dreamer, and the Jazz Messengers' The Big Beat, but haven't bought any of his own sessions until now. I purchased this based on the reviews and sound samples here on Amazon and wasn't disappointed. Recorded in 1964, but not released by the label until 1981, this is a strong set from an excellent group of musicians. Curtis Fuller on trombone, Jackie McLean on alto sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Art Blakey on drums join Lee Morgan here and all perform superbly. According to the liner notes, Blakey wasn't doing sideman gigs any more, but he made a special exception for his friend Lee for this session. Morgan had just returned from his self imposed exile and recorded The Sidewinder and Search for the New Land. While waiting for those albums to be released, he recorded Indestructible with The Jazz Messengers, then this album.
The release and success of The Sidewinder caused this album to be set aside in favor of attempting to follow up on the hit making formula. And that's really a shame, because this session is such a gas. Morgan wrote all but "Twilight Mist", a pretty Tyner ballad, played beautifully here. All the songs are extremely catchy and well constructed. "Tom Cat" is a slinky stirring piece with groove for days. Morgan's solos are evocative of the title animal and Jackie McLean's work here gave me goose bumps. "Exotique" is another excellent piece on which all the horn players provide skillful solos. The liner notes make mention of Morgan and McLean's ability to blend their horns into a third sound, which is heard in abundance here, especially on "Twice Around". "Riggarmortes" ends the album on a strong note, featuring an excellent melodic solo by Morgan, plus a great solo by Fuller, who to me sounds better here than on Coltrane's Blue Train. Put this album on and let this feline strut.