First Lee Morgan, Best Jackie McLean, 45rpm Vinyl
The latest two offerings from Music Matters JazzLee Morgan's Indeed! and Jackie McLean's Destination Out!are the company's best in a while: most worthy of the exclamation points.
MMJ, of course, is the jazz-loving audiophile-house that reissues classic Blue Note albums, spread out on two slabs of 180gm vinyl, mastered at 45rpm, and tucked inside gatefold packages featuring high-rez studio photos on the inside and pristine reproductions of the original covers on the outside.
Indeed! was Morgan's debut, recorded in 1956, when the trumpeter was a mere 18 and already wowing Dizzy Gillespie (who'd hired him as a featured soloist in his big band, as if Diz needed one), Art Blakey (who soon made him a Messenger), among othersand this album tells you why.
It's pretty much a straight blowing session, but Morgan is already a master, running lines with speed yet grace, boisterous dynamics but also sweet lyricism. The band: Clarence Sharpe on alto sax, Philly Jo Jones on drums, Wilbur Ware on bass, Horace Silver on piano.
The sound is mono, but the bass slaps, the drums (way in the back) shimmer, the piano is a bit hooded but naturaland the horns are up front and 3D. A killer.
Destination Out! is something else, maybe Jackie McLean's best ever. Recorded in 1964, it shows him stepping out in Ornette free-land, but anchored to melody and chord structure (the destination is Out, but he's not there yet) and an alto-sax tone richer and steadier than usual (almost tenor-like).
Most of the tunes are by Grachan Moncur, who also plays trombone on the session, and they're wondrous: full of mystery, swing, an edge of melancholy but still bursting with joy. Bobby Hutcherson adds color on vibes, Roy Haynes spreads the rhythm on drums, Larry Ridley keeps time on bass.
The soundstage is early stereo (horns hard left and hard right, precious little between), but otherwise it's superb, up there with Rudy Van Gelder's finest. All round, it's a hair-raiser.