Lee Morgan: Hocus-Pocus




Lee Morgan (trumpet)


The Sidewinder (Blue Note CDP 7 84157 2)

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Lee Morgan (trumpet), Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Barry Harris (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Billy Higgins (drums).

Composed by Lee Morgan


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 21, 1963


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

I get to see a lot of CDs reissued from the original vinyl recordings. Very often I find some horrific mistake in the liner notes. A recent compilation from Europe was filled with about 30 egregious errors! They have people working at these companies now who don't give a shit about the music or the artists. This is especially true when it comes to jazz. Most of these loads don't know the difference between improvisation and instant messaging. And whatever happened to proofreading and fact checking? I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky that any jazz reissues come out at all. I want to be fair. Most of these botch jobs are coming from the big companies that once took pride in their jazz rosters. They long ago abandoned those stars and now just reissue jazz that some computer program has told them will sell well enough as long as the company doesn't have to pay too much money, or any money at all, to the artists.

The venerable Blue Note label is not one of those companies you would expect to produce a sloppy reissue. But that is what they did when they initially reissued Lee Morgan's Sidewinder on CD back in 1989. To me, the fact that it happened 20 years ago is an even worse crime than if it happened today. There were less diversions then. Bassist Bob Cranshaw is listed on the front of the CD as "Crenshaw." Meanwhile, the back cover spells his name correctly. Didn't anyone look at both sides of the CD? But that mistake is minor compared to what they did with the song title encoding on the CD itself. You may think you are listening to "Gary's Notebook," but you are really hearing "Totem Pole" (alternate take). You may think you are listening to "Boy, What a Night," but you are really hearing "Gary's Notebook." So forth and so on. How maddening! This is the type of stuff I lose it over. I hope whoever allowed these mistakes to happen has led a miserable life since. The music and the musicians deserved much better. End of rant.

The title cut proved to be a big commercial crossover for Lee Morgan. But there is much more of value on the album than that crowd pleaser. "Hocus-Pocus" is a quick-paced modern jazz workout. It lacks the commercial hook of "The Sidewinder," but the same hard-bop sensibilities rule. It's an upbeat number that will have you tapping your toes to the rhythm section of Cranshaw and drummer Billy Higgins, and rockin' your head to the solos of Morgan, saxophonist Joe Henderson and pianist Barry Harris. Great tune! Great band!

Reviewer's Postscript: By chance of a Christmas gift card, I was browsing the Barnes & Noble limited and overpriced jazz CD section today, and came across another more recent Blue Note reissue of the album. The spelling of Bob Cranshaw's name had been corrected. I could tell from the song listings that those earlier mistakes had been fixed as well. The album had been reengineered and also featured new liner notes from noted jazz writer Bob Blumenthal. That's more like it, Blue Note!

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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