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The Last Session (1971)

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Harold Mabern

Lee Morgan's final studio recording before he was murdered was initially released as a two-fer LP, and the original recordings without alternate takes are included here on one CD. This was a fertile creative time for Morgan, as rivals Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw were embracing the electrified sounds of the times and Morgan followed suit. Harold Mabern is on the Fender Rhodes piano, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper proves a formidable front-line mate, and the vibrant Bobbi Humphrey is heard on flute before she commercialized her sound. It would be the last creative project Humphrey would involve herself in. Add the exciting trombonist Grachan Moncur III, drummer Freddie Waits, electric bass guitarist Jymie Merritt, and acoustic bassist Reggie Workman, and you have a dream team of unstoppable modern musicians who fully embrace progressive concepts and traditional values at once. One of the most famous compositions in modern jazz, "Croquet Ballet," is here in its initial form, and also available on Harper's Black Saint CD. It's a classic waltz sporting the brightest exuberant and memorable melody molded around a dancing image enhanced by unison and harmonic substance, Humphrey's over the top flute, the bold excursions of Harper, and scintillating solos. Closely following this in terms of enduring jazz are "Capra Black" and "In What Direction Are You Headed?" The former is a heavy and dark modal post-bop magnum opus well known in Harper's repertoire, while the latter has Mabern's perky Rhodes setting the pace in a bright, happy strutting 7/8 and diffuse 4/4, again with the atmospheric flute of Humphrey. "Angela" is led by the introspective bass of Merritt and reflects a sighing emotive motif, while the 17-minute "Inner Passions Out," written by Waits, holds an Arabic feel with the drummer also playing a shenai-sounding recorder. One of the bandmembers (unidentified) on mbira prompts a two-note modal framework from the bass players in an underground-to-free romp stomp. It is unfortunate that the brilliant and forward-thinking Morgan was cut down at such a young age, for as the music was changing, he would have adapted, as this final statement valiantly suggests. ~ Michael G. Nastos