Desert Island Disc 8, “The Sidewinder”

album-Lee-Morgan-The-SidewinderThe final album I have elected to choose in my game of Desert Island Discs has to be the super-famous Blue Note recording from Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder.  This is an opportunity to get some more of my all-time favorite musicians in the mix of choices I get to take to this imaginary island.  The leader, Lee Morgan is on trumpet, with Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Barry Harris on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.  This album, and specifically the title tune, is often referred to as one of the defining pieces in the “soul-jazz” sub-genre.  In fact, the title composition was released as a single and had some notable popular success on the Billboard charts.

“The Sidewinder”, Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan

The commercial successes of this album inspired many other albums to be modeled after it.  Blue Note would encourage/request/strongly recommend that Morgan and other artists include a funky opening number with a similar boogaloo beat to entice sales.  The great irony of this situation is that Morgan had recorded the tune as filler for the album, a sort of easygoing throwaway idea.  He was much prouder of his playing in other places on this and other albums.  He likely came to dislike having to repeat this tune on numerous gigs throughout his career, because it was his best known tune.

Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson is one of the best tenor saxophone players of all time.  His playing can be found on well over a hundred albums spanning his over forty-year career.  His name will pop up on dozens of my favorite albums.  I particularly like his solo on “Hocus-Pocus” from this album.

“Hocus-Pocus”, Lee Morgan

The rest of the album is filled with great hard bop tunes, the kind of thing that the Blue Note label of the 1960’s was famous for.  Lee Morgan himself only barely lived past the 60’s, having died in February of 1972.  He was shot in a jazz club by his common-law wife, and tragically died of the injuries, partly because the ambulance service was reluctant and slow in responding to the area where the club was located.  Lee should have paid more attention to one of my rules to live by, which is to keep your woman happy.  If mama ain’t happy, no one is happy!

Well there you have it, the eighth and final pick on my list of jazz albums I would want if stranded on a desert island.  If you have listened to all of them, you will have met some of my best friends.  On trumpet, we have heard Miles, Freddie, Clifford, Woody, Blue and Lee.  Coltrane, Cannonball, Wayne, Sonny, Dexter and Joe have all joined the party on saxophone.  Horace, Art, Elvin, McCoy, Max and many others have appeared in the rhythm sections.  There are many giants of jazz who did not appear on any of the eight albums I have packed away, but I think you would get a pretty good introduction to some quality straight-ahead jazz if you started with this collection.  All of these albums have been important in my musical development, and I hope you have enjoyed the survey too.

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