Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder

Morgan spent the majority of 1962 and 1963 in Philadelphia in the clutches of a heroin habit he picked up while in the Jazz Messengers. After a brief (and not totally successful) stint in rehab, he returned to Van Gelder Studio on December 21, 1963 to record The Sidewinder. A surprise hit, it peaked at number 25 on the Pop LP charts in early 1965 and snuck into the R&B Top 10, becoming Blue Note’s greatest commercial success.

The rhythm section’s bouncy groove on “The Sidewinder” is so irresistible and the melody so catchy it’s possible to neglect what is one of Morgan’s most impressive recorded solos. It’s meticulously constructed with logic and clarity, and Morgan displays a modesty that he often lacked in his ostentatious youth. His phrasing is especially noteworthy; the spaces he leaves between his concise ideas serve as timely punctuations that enhance the efficacy of each statement, creating three bluesy choruses that breathe and build organically. It’s also Morgan at his coolest and funkiest, grooving like none other.

The unexpected success of “The Sidewinder” left Blue Note determined to produce another hit single. Dozens of mid-1960s LPs kicked off with bluesy R&B-tinged tracks in an effort to place the label back on the charts. Though most of these tracks were solid, none would ever duplicate the success of Morgan’s original.

July 09, 2009 · 0 comments

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Joe Sample: The Sidewinder

The 1994 Northridge earthquake so unsettled Joe Sample that he temporarily shelved his smooth jazz ministrations in favor of a full-frontal funk foray on an album titled, appropriately, Did You Feel That? Here he shakes up Lee Morgan's churning 1963 Blue Note classic "The Sidewinder" just enough to rattle dishes without breaking anything. Sample's soul by committee registers a 7.0 on the funk Richter scale. Granted, remakes are almost never as good as the original. But sometimes they're fun in their own right. Here's a case in point. First listen to Lee. Then sample Joe. You will feel that.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder

Having been a member of both Art Blakey’s and Dizzy Gillespie’s bands at age 18, the prodigious trumpeter Lee Morgan, at first a disciple of Clifford Brown, was well into the development of a personal style at his untimely death at age 33. The Sidewinder is one of numerous recordings he made under his own name in the mid-1960s. Its hip-shaking title selection, with its funky bassline, strong backbeat, and Latinesque accents underpinning an earthy blues line, became a major hit and helped usher in the soul jazz/ boogaloo style.

October 23, 2007 · 0 comments

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