Sunday, July 23, 2006
Lee Morgan - Gaza Strip
Album - Indeed!
Recorded - 1956
Credited to one Owen Marshall (about whom the internet is strangely silent), 'Gaza Strip' was the first track recorded by Morgan as a leader, and was released shortly after on his first Blue Note LP. It's also notable for featuring Horace Silver, who provides his usual funky backing on piano, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Despite being only 18, Morgan had served his apprenticeship in various groups, most notably the Jazz Messengers, and as can be heard here, was more than ready to strike out on his own (and become a hard bop legend, though that was still to come in 1956).
After Philly Joe's intro, Morgan leads off on the theme, but then lays out and lets the band do their stuff. First up is Clarence Sharpe on alto with a passably entertaining solo, but it pales in comparison with what is to come. Silver is next, sounding characteristically louche and funky - this is more like what we can expect from ex-Jazz Messengers. Finally is Morgan, blowing Sharpe into the weeds with a fiery and well-considered solo. At times he almost trips over himself, and he's obviously moving around a hell of a lot as he moves towards and away from the microphone, at times sounding as if he's heading for the back of the studio. But somehow it all stays together and he reaches the end for another statement of the theme, the listener left breathless with excitement.
I've no idea where the title of the piece comes from. Given the turbulent history of that part of the world one might expect a combative mood to the piece, but that's evident only in the way that Morgan's solo bests everyone else's. You might even expect a slight middle-eastern feel, but if it's there, I can't hear it. As usual, answers on a postcard...