Lee Morgan: Absolutions




Lee Morgan (flugelhorn)


Live At The Lighthouse (Blue Note 35228)

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Lee Morgan (flugelhorn), Bennie Maupin (tenor sax), Harold Mabern (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), Mickey Roker (drums).

Composed by Jymie Merritt


Recorded: Hermosa Beach, CA, July 11, 1970


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

In early 1970 Morgan was on the wrong end of an altercation with a pipe-wielding assailant, taking a blow directly to the face. Painful, loosened teeth were wired together with braces, forcing Morgan to reconstruct his embouchure and rebuild his strength and endurance. Ironically, this arduous process coincided with a dramatic change in the sound of Morgan’s working group. Spearheaded by the addition of reedman/composer Bennie Maupin, Morgan’s quintet opened up, exuding a new adventurousness and exoticism in its long-form modal structures. The seasoned trumpeter explored these new compositions in marathon, often introverted improvisations, less flamboyant than in his gregarious youth. On “Absolutions,” following a cathartic, searching statement by Maupin, Morgan enters meditatively, sustaining long notes and carefully developing his ideas at a deliberate pace before erupting with more familiar explosiveness near the 7:52 mark. The rhythm section—Mabern’s grounding, full-bodied fourth chords, Roker’s polyrhythmic triplets, and supple, active bass from the composer Jymie Merritt—creates a dense and sinister soundscape that reaches a sustained, violent peak behind the leader. Morgan is potent and focused, determinedly battling his career-threatening injury. He would go on to make only a few more recordings before his life came to its tragic end, making the epic three-disc Live at the Lighthouse all the more precious.

Reviewer: Matt Leskovic

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