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City Lights by Lee Morgan

In an era of over-saturation in jazz characterized by an abundance of young performers who seem to favor imitation at the expense of originality, it’s invigorating to hear a timeless gem like City Lights. It’s hard to contemplate the fact that this music was recorded half a century ago. The precision and inventiveness of Lee Morgan and company still sounds fresh and as hip as anything being recorded today. More than just a blowing session which was typical of so many Blue Note dates from this era, the five tunes are tightly arranged for sextet by a young Benny Golson who also contributes three compositions.

The exotic sounding title cut, "City Lights," is an up-tempo swinging affair that lets Morgan, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, and trombonist Curtis Fuller stretch out their post-bop fieriness on top of the relentless sizzle of Art Taylor’s ride cymbal. After pianist Ray Bryant, and bassist Paul Chambers (bow in hand) get a chance to show off their wares, Taylor and Morgan trade fours and build the intensity to dizzying heights.

Fuller leads off the soloing on "Tempo De Waltz" with a weaving of swinging melodic ideas that dance gracefully over the bouncy 3/4 tempo. Morgan sings with power and conviction on the beautiful ballad "You’re Mine." Listening to his solo reminds one of the incredible innovations forged in the 1950s by young lions like Morgan and Clifford Brown. "Kin Folks," a Gigi Gryce greaser closes the session in a wonderful bluesy way. The arrangement is incredibly slick and everyone gets a chance to blow.

This is a wonderful reissue (part of Blue Note’s Rudy Van Gelder series) featuring five giants of jazz who were young, on fire, and ready to take the world by storm. A must have!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lee Morgan
  • CD Title: City Lights
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Reissue Original Release: 1957
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Tracks: City Lights, Tempo De Waltz, You’re Mine, Just by Myself, Kin Folks
  • Musicians: Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), George Coleman (tenor and alto sax), Ray Bryant (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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