April 20, 2024

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CD review: Lee Morgan – Search for the New Land – 1964 – 2024: Video, CD cover

Essential mid-sixties Blue Note album from Lee Morgan with a mesmerising John Coltrane-inspired title track – ‘Search for the New Land’ – plus the essential modal classic ‘Mr Kenyatta’ and the tranquil ballad ‘Melancholia’. Lee Morgan recorded many albums for Blue Note but this has to be one of our absolute favourites!

Renowned in jazz ever since he emerged in the Dizzy Gillespie big band of 1956, and crowned early on as the late Clifford Brown’s successor among promising young trumpeters, Lee Morgan packed a lot of living into the next 16 years. A member of arguably the finest versions of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (playing alongside Benny Golson or Wayne Shorter), Morgan recorded regularly for Blue Note as both a leader and a sideman for virtually his entire career. He had a major hit recording with “The Sidewinder” in 1963 and was on a countless number of significant Blue Note recordings, stretching his hard bop style while being open to the influences of the avant-garde, post bop and late 1960s r&b.

Only his untimely death in 1972 kept him from challenging Freddie Hubbard as the top jazz trumpeter of the 1970s. While Morgan’s boogaloo recordings were very popular, Search For The New Land has one of his finest hours. Recorded right after The Sidewinder, Search For The New Land introduces five of Morgan’s most challenging compositions, has him leading an all-star sextet (with Shorter, Grant Green and Herbie Hancock) and features him playing stirring and intense solos that rank not only with his greatest work but the most creative trumpet solos of the mid-1960s.

Like all Music Matters Jazz releases, this audiophile vinyl reissue is mastered from the original analog tape and pressed on 180g virgin vinyl at RTI in Camarillo, CA. The highest quality gatefold cover features original session photography on the inside.

In 1964 Lee Morgan recorded what was probably his last artistically “serious” jazz record, BLP 4169 “Search for the New Land” in the company of Herbie Hancock, Grant Green and Wayne Shorter. In the same year his album “The Sidewinder” set cash registers ringing for Blue Note, entering the Billboard charts, and drawing Lee inexorably toward commercial “Pop-Bop with subsequent releases.

It sounds great, little different from an original Blue Note, perhaps a little less “bite”, though nothing that would detract from listening pleasure. During the early years of Liberty ownership, most Blue Note new titles and reissues were pressed by All Disc, Roselle N.J. a formerly independent pressing plant acquired by Liberty at the time of the Blue Note acquisition. The trademark Plastylite ear is missing but they are comparable extremely high quality pressings, with the head start of original Van Gelder mastering.

Budget-conscious audiophile collectors should enjoy a substantial saving on the price of original Plastylite Blue Note, pressed from Van Gelder master metal and a few years less wear and tear. I have over a dozen Liberty” Blue Notes reissues which all sound fresh and satisfying and I have had no audio disappointments.

This copy hails not from 1964, but from 1966 and the record presses of Liberty. Declared as a Van Gelder stamped “Van Gogh Blue Note” (missing ear) it was an eyes-wide-open deal, and the price reflected it. It is always essential to establish the presence or absence of the Plastylite “ear”. Again and again sellers “fail to mention it”, in the hope niaeve buyers will trust to luck.

Highly recommended!

Artists: Lee Morgan (tp) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p) Grant Green (g) Reggie Workman (b) Billy Higgins (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 15, 1964

Lee Morgan - Search For The New Land LP (Blue Note 75th Anniversary Reissue Series)

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